nextinline: (Timothy)
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Jay: Even by the hellish standards of this place, today was a long day. Dealing with all the arriving visitors and making sure they were all cleared to visit was just the start. One good point is that the guitar classes acquitted themselves well, though there was a moment of concern when Justin played a few riffs of Pantera, as if to warm up, but afterwards he and Jesse performed the planned songs and the lack of Lovato made everything a bit better.

With all the chaos, it's quite late before Leech makes his usual rounds of the campus. He finishes with locking the auditorium, then heads back to the main building, entirely ready for a large glass of wine and the quiet of his own rooms - Jimmy having gone back to Jersey, and Maddox Reed in an isolation room for the night. By habit, he glances around the grounds looking for anything out of place as he returns to the courtyard.


Jackie: While most students were excited for Visitors Day, Tim was not one of them; having Lars out on this coast means he’s seen more of him lately, and today’s visit was just another one to add to the growing number of times his friend has come and checked on him. Undoubtedly, seeing Matt is a highlight, but it’s still dampened with overall gloom - and Tim can’t shake the way the boy was looking at him, unsure if he is really all right. And to top it off, having his brother come in on short notice did little to lift Tim’s spirits; instead, it was a constant reminder of what abandoned him. And even if Jeff was encouraging and loving, it still stung to have the older sibling hash out a few more details about his former family - and how Tim will be taken care of from here on out.

Therefore, once Jeff departs and Lars and Matt give in to Jesse’s pleading of hanging out and smoking pot, Tim is able to escape down to the courtyard, where he huddles near a statue on the ground. He isn’t full out crying, but he’s curled into himself - knees to chest, forehead on knee - trying to focus on his breathing and getting his thoughts in order.


Jay: The boy chose his hiding spot well; Leech nearly passes by without seeing him, shadowed from the dim light of the moon by the building at his back. But the parasite's eyes switch from right to left again, skim over the huddled form and move on only to snap back as his brain processes what he's seeing. He comes to a stop and eyes Timothy uncertainly - even with the darkness and the way he's curled up, Leech has no trouble recognizing him - then gives one more glance around to make sure no one else is nearby before moving closer, near-silent as always. Once he's near enough to speak without raising his voice, he does so. "What're you doing out here? 's after curfew. You oughta be in yer dorm before some checks 'em."


Jackie: So focused on his thoughts, Tim doesn’t hear the approaching parasite, and instead clutches his arms tighter around his shins to draw his body into itself more. He doesn’t have more than a sweatshirt on, the hood drawn up over his head, so it’s clear he probably wasn’t intending on leaving - or staying out too long. The voice, despite it not being raised, jolts him, but he doesn’t lift his head. Instead, he just moves so his arms crook up, and he can lace his fingers together at the back of his neck. “Just…needed some fresh air. I’ll go in in a minute.” No doubt, he knows who’s standing there, but he can’t very well will himself to look at Leech.


Jay: Of course, Leech didn't really expect it to be that easy - didn't expect Timothy to just say, okay, stand up and go back to his dorm - so he refrains from sighing, just takes another step closer and crouches down. He didn't see much of the boy today aside from during the guitar class performances, but he knows Lars' usual methods of showing he cares; no doubt that made the weight on Timothy's shoulders feel heavier, and seeing his brother might well have been a trial, too.

Leech debates accepting that answer and moving on, leaving him here; whatever reconciliation they reached on the last trip and thereafter has been strained both by those caring methods of Lars', Kellen's attitude, and of course, Ness in general. If Timothy wants company, it's doubtful he'd pick Leech's. But as his eyes scan over the boy from this closer vantage, his distress is more evident, and walking away ceases to be an option. "Timothy. Look at me." It's not, not quite a command, but it isn't very far off either, though spoken gently.


Jackie: Now with his hands anchored on his neck, Tim’s able to draw his body in even further, but he crooks his arms so they rest atop of his knees, still with his face hidden in the nook there. Were he not wrapped up in such anxiety, there’d maybe be a rush of anger, wishing Leech would just leave him alone - certainly, if he wanted company, he doesn’t have to venture far to find it, today of all days. But there’s no room left for anger, no emotions remaining for him to give into that feeling, so he instead squeezes his eyes shut to ward off any tears. Luckily, he doesn’t feel any forming, but there’s still a temptation there. Hearing that soft command, Timothy clenches his fingers together briefly, and it’s a good twenty seconds before he is able to lift his chin up enough to look over at Leech. Of course, he doesn’t really look at him - more like where his hands are, but then more intimate memories come back so he diverts to looking at the sidewalk a few feet down .


Jay: Leech waits more or less patiently for that head to lift, and even though the boy doesn't precisely look at him he can at least see his face. He doesn't appear to have been crying, which is a relief in a way, but on the other hand, it isn't the first time Leech has noticed the way the kid has been blanked out when by any measure he should be showing some emotion. Not that Leech would prefer him sobbing or raging all the time, but...

The parasite's mouth thins for a moment, then abruptly he reaches to take one of Timothy's arms, drawing his hand away from his neck as he stands up, attempting to draw him to his feet as well. "Come with me." Again, it's that almost-but-not-quite demanding tone, more decided now but still relatively gentle.


Jackie: Now with his head raised, Tim sighs - not heavily, but it’s obvious he’s drained - as if that entire action took way too much out of him, and he can’t possibly do it again. He looks blankly off to the side, waiting to be scolded, or warned, and possibly threatened. But that never happens, and instead he’s jerked up. Normally, he’d be a little more reactive, quick to adjustment of being pulled up, but this time he’s clumsy, and nearly feels like dead weight until a few seconds pass and he’s able to get to his feet. Again, another command comes, but this time it’s combined with following the parasite, and Tim’s skeptical. “Where?”


Jay: Leech tilts his head slightly and narrows an eye at that question, but doesn't bother pointing out that he's still Timothy's teacher, if nothing else, and therefore shouldn't be questioned like this when he's out after curfew, but that would be verging on absurd with everything they've been to. Instead, he just answers flatly. "Downstairs." He doesn't wait for further questions, but still with his grip on the boy's arm starts for the door into the building.

Typically he'd arm the door alarm on his way inside, since it is after curfew, but there may be a visitor or two still milling about so he doesn't bother, just heads towards the basement. He continues scanning the hallways as they pass through them and pauses briefly to double-check the door to the music room, but they come across nothing more interesting than the headmaster leaving the kitchen towards his office, armed with a banana and totally oblivious to their presence.


Jackie: At first, that answer makes Timothy’s stomach clench, because the type of solitude he was looking for wasn’t exactly the kind the isolation rooms offer, and he can only assume that’s where Leech is taking him. There’s an obvious thought of going to Leech’s quarters, but Tim doesn’t let that thought manifest - it’s too much, and he’s barely processing that he’s on his feet before they’re already descending the stairs.

As they make their way through the school, Tim starts to stir more to life, and he starts to give a little resistance as they get closer to the basement. His voice sounds a little pleading, almost worried, and definitely weak. “I can’t do an isolation room right now— can I just…go back to my dorm? I won’t leave it.”


Jay: Glad to avoid the headmaster's notice, Leech only fully stops once they reach the basement door, finally releasing Timothy's arm to dig his keys out and unlock it. That question makes him look up from the operation and he stares at the boy oddly for a moment, almost injured, though of course it's not very obvious. "...I wasn't taking you to isolation." Moving past that, Leech pockets the keys again and hauls the door open, waiting for Timothy to go through then following, immediately turning to close and lock the door again. After this day, he really doesn't want any staff members barreling down here to hand him their difficulties; they can call if it's important, and the headmaster and Kellen both have keys. He starts down the steps then, moving a bit more slowly than usual.


Jackie: That reply makes Timothy pause for a moment, and he glances over at Leech with a little wounded expression that is partly surprise. Which may make the entire look even worse. He opens his mouth, but nothing comes out, so he instead ducks his head down and shuffles through into the basement, his free arm moving up so he can grip at his neck compulsively. Once inside, he hovers until Leech starts moving again, and he follows the other boy in the same pace. A new swirl of panic starts to circle around his gut, but luckily it isn’t flared up entirely, so Timothy is able to swallow it down for the moment.


Jay: Down here, and especially at his slower pace, the silence starts to weigh more heavily with tension, so a few steps from the bottom he forces himself to break it. "Your brother came to visit. How was that?" He'd been surprised to see a member of Timothy's family - especially since he hadn't informed anyone he was coming - and while it was nice to know that someone related to him cares, Leech knows the visit couldn't help but remind the kid of the family members he doesn't have anymore. Another reason he would expect Timothy to be more of a mess than he is now.


Jackie: With all the thoughts occupying his mind, Tim isn’t too in tuned with the silence - not until Leech breaks it, of course. The question isn’t meant to sting, and right now it doesn’t (probably thanks to his medications), but Tim’s hand does tighten against his own neck, and he has to swallow back his first response. Eventually, his throat his clear enough that he speaks lowly, and adds a shrug to it all, as if that will help prove that he’s fine and wasn’t just on the verge of breaking down outside. “He’s doing all right. Keeping busy…he’s never been to Boston before.” Perhaps it’s obvious, but Tim doesn’t actually answer the question.


Jay: Absolutely noticing that evasion, Leech turns his head to look at the boy blankly, letting the silence stretch for another moment before speaking again. "Were you glad to see him?" He remembers that the brother in question wrote Timothy a letter, not too terribly long ago - a letter that threw him into a panic much more pronounced than his current state. Reaching his door, Leech opens it - not having bothered with the lock, since the basement door was secured. Immediately the cat darts out into the hallway. Leech leans down to catch her, but halts bent halfway with a silent grimace, then straightens up carefully again and waves dismissively at the cat - now halfway down the hall and waiting him smugly, pleased with her escape, and ready to bolt again if he shows signs of chasing. Which he doesn't.


Jackie: Now at Leech’s door, Tim hovers uncertainly, and digs his fingernails into the back of his neck; memories are jogging back, and he actually thinks (wrongly) that it’d be better to be outside in the cold than down here in this familiarity with Leech. He shrugs again for that question, and this time, it’s honest - not just out of habit. “I don’t know.” Again, this answer sounds weak, maybe even a little panicked, and he’s thankful that the cat serves as a brief distraction, or a break from the focus being on his brother. He uses the interruption to his advantage, and tilts his head a little bit for Leech’s obvious pain. “…want me to get her?"


Jay: Were he not distracted, Leech would probably nod for that answer, accepting its honesty. He watches the cat for a second long, then shakes his head. "Nah. She'll come back when she wants. She likes to go to the deeper rooms and keep the rat population in check." He motions for Timothy to enter the room (possibly suspecting he might try to escape like Cat), then follows him in, only pulling the door halfway closed so the feline can find her way back in when she wants.

Leech motions in the vicinity of the couch with his head. "Sit. I'll be right back." Figuring Timothy wouldn't want to accompany him to the bedroom, Leech ventures there alone, but true to his words returns shortly after. The rooms are all more cluttered than usual, due to Jimmy's short visit, with empty beer bottles clustered on the coffee table among loose playing cards, and Leech picks his way around the stuff on the floor carefully - shoes and a blanket, an acoustic guitar missing three strings, the drumbox, and other miscellany - to reach the couch. He doesn't sit there as well, but clears a small space on the coffee table to perch on, and holds his hand out flat towards Timothy, a couple small round pills in the palm.


Jackie: Probably not surprisingly, Tim was hoping that Leech would nod for the offer, thus giving him the chance to snag the cat and book it out of here. But it’s no surprise that Leech lets the cat roam, and gestures Timothy inside. Upon entering, Tim doesn’t lift his head to look around because he already knows it all, and there’s definitely a flood of memories pouring into his mind. It would hurt, if Tim allowed the feeling to come, but he just digs his nails in deeper and hovers awkwardly.

Looking up once Leech directs him to the couch, Tim finally glances around the apartment, and is a little surprised to see it in such a state. But he’s reminded of who else has been occupying the space down here, and his muscles tense as he moves towards the couch. When he sits, he doesn’t make himself comfortable, and buries his head in his hands once Leech departs, only peering through his fingers blearily when the other boy returns, and offers that palm of pills. Uncommonly, Tim immediately reaches for the drugs, since he’d really like to feel something other than this, and pops them into his mouth, swallowing them dry. “It’s quiet.”


Jay: Pleased that he doesn't have to coerce Timothy to take the anxiety medicine, Leech stands and again winds his way through the main room, towards the kitchen. "It usually is, 'cept when Kellen's around." He digs in the fridge briefly, then returns, offering the boy on the couch a bottle of water; he postponed the planned wine consumption himself, instead also taking water. Dropping onto a chaise, he looks Timothy over uncertainly again, not sure how to express his own concern.


Jackie: Tim already has his pills swallowed by the time Leech comes back with the water, but he takes the bottle anyways and cracks it open, taking a sip. “It’s nice.” Because obviously, all Tim has been trying to find is some silence today - not a room full of guitar students playing cover songs, or Lars lovingly scolding him about taking care of himself, or Jeff detailing the new family dynamic or giving him money and a cell phone, or Matt asking him question after question because it’s been too long since they’ve been around each other. Once Leech is settled on the chaise, the silence takes over again, and Tim sits forward on the couch, placing the water near his feet so he can rub both hands tiredly across his face and scalp.


Jay: Leech makes a quiet noise of agreement, because the silence is a nice change from the rest of the day. It does occur to Leech that maybe dragging Timothy down here and drilling him on his emotions isn't the best way to help him recover from the earlier stress, but he pushes the thought from his mind. "When's yer next psych appointment?" He should probably know this, since he'll have to take him there, but he can't bring it to mind.


Jackie: Still rubbing at his face, scalp, and the back of his neck, Tim takes a careful sigh and tries to calm his body down; in addition to his mile-a-minute thinking, his muscles haven’t relaxed in quite some time. The pills should help with that, but that question certainly doesn’t. Tim actually quietly hisses for it, mostly due to a sharper inhale of breath, and he racks his mind for a moment before coming up with the answer: “Next week Wednesday, I think. Afternoon.”


Jay: That reaction doesn't go unnoticed, but Leech presses on relentlessly; maybe once all this is out of his head they can both relax. Although he has doubts that Timothy remembers how to. "How's that going? Do ya think it does anything for you?" He hasn't had as much to do with the psychiatrist as with the regular doctor, aside from a briefing on the first visit, which only told him things he already knew.


Jackie: “It’s fine.” The quick answer to that is a sure sign that the sessions are the opposite of fine; they’re miserable, and don’t seem to help any, and are by far the worst part of Tim’s week - whether it’s the doctor in Boston, or the school counselor. The only perk, he sees, is the medicine that makes dealing with things a little more tolerable. “I’m fine.” Probably an even worse lie, but Tim at least sounds like he’s trying to be sure of himself.


Jay: In another mood Leech would give a disbelieving snort, but now he just tilts his head to the side some and watches the boy for an extended moment. "Well, they haven' taught ya how to lie convincingly, anyway." Leaning back some, he digs his cigarettes out of a pocket and lights one, tossing the carton to land on the couch near Timothy afterward. "Yer not fine, and I don' think it's doing you any good. Yer medicine needs to be changed. Numb isn't the same thing as better."


Jackie: Tim tries to ignore that first comment, only closing his eyes briefly for it and willing whatever initial thought it brings forth to go away. Whether Leech knows it or not, he’s starting to sound more like Lars - and right now, Timothy just isn’t up for it. He stays still until those cigarettes join him on the couch, and then he gently lifts up to inspect. Noticing what they are, Tim reaches for them and uses the lighter on the coffee table (wedged between a few beer bottles) to light it - perhaps looking a little foreign in doing so, since most of his cigarette smoking is more intimate, especially with Leech. He decidedly tries to curb the other comment in the same manner he did previously: “I’m fine, Leech.”


Jay: This time, Leech doesn't restrain the snort, but it's at least relatively quiet. While he might not compare himself to Lars, he does realize he's being more pushy than he would usually be, especially where he has no real right to it. But the instability of Timothy's emotional state was concerning enough; somehow, the lack of emotion is worse. Leech can't believe he's really fine, or better, thinks it more likely he's shoving everything down inside (not something the parasite is innocent of himself) or just anesthetized beyond feeling by whatever antidepressants he's on. Continuing to watch the boy, Leech gnaws on the inside of his cheek for a long moment, before stating in an expressionless voice: "Ya don't seem fine."


Jackie: Fitting the cigarette to his mouth, Tim takes a deep inhale and then twists it around his fingers idly. He could have predicted the parasite’s next words, so there’s no real surprise when they come - he had the same conversation with Lars a week ago, and still the boy eyes him with doubt and concern. Exhaling the smoke through his nose, Timothy gives a half shrug, more like he doesn’t know what to do with that statement, instead of agreeing to it. “I am. Really. It’s just been a long day.” Long few months, too.


Jay: Leech narrows his eyes some when that answer comes, more thoughtful than displeased, and exhales a quiet sigh through his nose after a moment, looking away. "And you've prolly had more than enough people askin' if yer okay." His tone is a little self-depreciating, and a corner of his mouth curves up slightly. "Well, at least ya know you've got no lack of people who care." Not that it does any good. The parasite shakes his head dismissively, playing the cigarette between his fingers idly.


Jackie: Tim cocks his head to the side, as if to agree with that first statement, and it clearly shows just how over it all he is; it could be Leech, or Matt, or Jesse, or Lars, and the boy would be giving the same response, feeling the same sort of drained annoyance. On the contrary, Leech’s other words make Tim’s eyes immediately flick over to him, but they’re not soft and thankful - instead, they look more doubtful and unamused. So he snorts and tilts his head the other way to hide the expression from his face (although it’s hardly there to begin with) and he takes another drag from his cigarette. “Thanks for the pills.”


Jay: Glancing back at the kid when he snorts, Leech just misses the expression, but the snort speaks for itself. He's not about to make a case for himself or try to prove he does care, though. It wouldn't achieve anything. A noncommittal hum is his only response to that gratitude. He takes a quick drag from his smoke then goes back to dancing it along the back of his knuckles like a stage magician with a coin, only narrowly avoiding burning himself a few times. "You did well today. Yer performance. Everything else aside." He's back to sounding mostly blank, but he means it - Timothy did perform well. It had been somewhat painful to watch, the way that he and Ness interacted so flawlessly.


Jackie: Still so tense, Tim cranes his neck from side to side, making a few joints pop in an attempt to relieve the tension there. It doesn’t work very well, but surely the pills Leech gave him will, once they work into his system. Leaning in, he ashes his cigarette into the ashtray on the coffee table and then remains lurched forward, elbows resting on his thighs. “It’s nerve wracking.” Maybe more so than sitting here now, is. His cigarette free hand raises up to rub at his face again, and he tries to think about something else. “Jess has improved a lot.”


Jay: That makes Leech tilt his head to the side some, eyes narrowing. "Ya didn't seem very nervous when you were up there." Of course, Ness did the singing, so that probably helped. He nods agreement to the latter statment, probably thinking that talk not focusing on himself might help Timothy relax more than anything else. "He has. Prolly he coulda kept up with Justin's metal, even." Ceasing his fidgeting now that the cigarette is too short to twirl, he plants it in his mouth instead and slouches in his chair some. "Him and Kellen have been hanging out in the guitar room a lot lately. I think the kid's got a knack for writing his own music, too. Seems to improvise well."


Jackie: Tim could very easily say that he’s getting better at hiding such things, but that’s like opening up Pandora’s box - and now that their conversation is shifting, he really doesn’t want to bring the focus back to him and his mental state. Taking another drag from his cigarette, Tim exhales it fully, but he still looks unbearably uncomfortable, all tense muscles and angled limbs. He doesn’t have much of a positive reaction to the compliments aimed towards Jesse, but he does appear to agree with them. “Him getting paired up with Justin was good. Forced him to play a different style for a bit. Would still hear him practicing Clash songs with Kellen, though. Or they’d bounce ideas off one another. He’s improved, too.” He meaning Leech’s brother, of course.


Jay: And Leech in turn would argue that he isn't getting better at hiding it - whatever drugs the psychiatrist put him on are more likely suppressing the full force of feeling. He makes a small noise of agreement. "Yeh, and mebbe it prevented Justin from fucking around too much. I'm sure he gets bored, but there's really not much else I can teach him. Mebbe I'll have him instruct the class the rest'a the year." A disaster in the making, that would be. Despite the general tense mood, a brief smile flickers over Leech's mouth at the mention of Kellen, but he doesn't comment on it, only nods lightly.


Jackie: Normally, that sort of suggestion would make Tim snort in amusement and dart his eyes over to the parasite, a clear indication of just how horrible of an idea that is. But this time, Tim just reaches forward to stub out his cigarette, crushing the butt of it into the ashtray that is already half filled. With both hands free again, Tim moves them back to his scalp, rubbing over it gently, compulsively. Now that the performances are over with, he isn’t entirely sure what else their class will work on; surely another assignment with Michael isn’t going to happen, even if it’s been one of the few things keeping him from falling off the ledge lately. “What are we going to do now?” He pauses, but then adds on quickly: “In class."


Jay: After a few last drags off his cigarette, Leech leans forward and drops the butt into an empty beer bottle. "Ah...I'm not sure. Thought we'd try recording, if I can get everything set up. Might be a good change." Sliding off the chaise, Leech makes his way through to the kitchen to pour a glass of wine, as he had earlier planned on. As he returns to his chair, he glances briefly at the clock. "I gotta do the dorm checks at midnight. If ya want, you can go back to yer dorm then - right now, you'd prolly run into someone an' get sent right back here. Snider's been really adamant about walkin' the halls since he got back from vacation."


Jackie: Humming for that answer, because it definitely feels like a better alternative to more group projects and small performances, Tim drops his hands so he can clasp one set of fingers around the other arm’s wrist, rubbing gently, distractedly. He seems to be a little lost in thought when Leech returns, so he blinks over at the other boy and processes those words, perhaps taking a little longer due to the various drugs he’s consumed today. “…yeah, I’ll wait until then. I don’t need Snider yelling in my ear again.” Because ever since he and Ness stole his vehicle, Tim has received nothing less from Todd.


Jay: Leech sets the bottle of red in a clear space on the coffee table, maybe a little pointedly, along with an empty glass, before leaning back in his own chair and sampling the wine. "No one ever needs that. I was really hoping he jus' wouldn't come back." Alas, he seems cursed with coworkers that hate him. "Least he didn't bother tryin' to get me fired again, over that shit with Lovato. I think he's finally catching on to the kid's victim act."


Jackie: When that bottle is placed within arms reached, followed by that glass, Tim looks over at the items and ponders it for a moment, but doesn’t reach for them. It’s all too familiar what happens when he drinks wine along with Leech - although for right now, those memories aren’t at the forefront. Instead, he just knows he shouldn’t, and doesn’t delve into the ‘why’ part. “Finally.” Because really, it’s all Tony’s done since he came to the school; i


Jackie: ...


Jackie: it’s about damn time Snider caught on. “Prefer if Tony never came back."


Jay: Though Leech's own wine is disappearing rapidly, he doesn't force it on the boy, knowing well enough that he doesn't indulge as much as most of the kids around him. He gives a faint groan of agreement. "Too much to hope for, I think. More likely we'll have to wait til someone gives in and murders him." Well, there's a thought. He ponders on it, then shakes his head. "I'm jus' glad he's outta my class. I did hear Kellen trying to coerce Jade into doing...something, to his dorm, but I was careful not to listen too close." Setting the wine glass on the floor momentarily (the end table being completely covered in various things), Leech snags the pack of cigarettes to light another one.


Jackie: Tim can’t stop the small, short grunt that comes from that suggestion; it’s not quite amusement, but maybe an attempt at getting there, so it’s a bit of an improvement to where he was before. Forcing himself to sit up straight again, Tim eyes that bottle one more time, and then the clock - there’s still some time before Leech has to do dorm checks, and Tim desperately needs some relaxation. So he wordlessly reaches for the bottle, and pours himself a small glass. “Probably a good idea. Thought I heard Jess saying something about it, too."


Jay: "Ah. Excellent. A whole conspiracy." He snorts quietly, reclaiming his wineglass now that the cigarette is lit and mulling the thought over as he drinks from it. "I hope they don't murder him. Wouldn' be worth it. Well...I could stand to lose Puget." He's distracted from that line of thought when the cat darts through the partially open door, somehow hauling a rat nearly as big as herself in her mouth, tripping a bit on its dragging tail. She hops onto the lower part of Leech's chaise - he swiftly moves his feet out of the way - and deposits the rat carcass between his knees, purring.


Jackie: Since Tim and Mike were victims of Kellen and Jesse’s dorm room havoc, he has very little sympathy for anyone else - especially not Tony. Hell, if he weren’t in the state he is now, he might even demand that he be a part of the conspiracy. Tim hums quietly and takes a drink from his wine, the medications Leech provided slowly working to relieve the tension in his body enough that he actually leans into the couch and presses his shoulder blades into the back cushion. Cat, and her gross present, seem to draw him away from the thought he was forming, and he squints a bit at the gift given to Leech. “That’s…disgusting.”


Jay: "Ahhh..." Leech eyes the corpse uncertainly, then looks at the kitten sitting there with pride obvious in the line of her whiskers and cock of her ears, and sighs. "Did you do that all by yerself? Thank you. It looks delicious." This is all said in a very approving tone, blatantly forced, but it seems to serve - Cat flicks her tail happily and hops down. Immediately she heads for the food bowl, of course. Leech sets down his wine again and takes the dead rat gingerly by the tail, standing up, giving Timothy a suffering sort of look. "'scuse me fer a minute." He goes out into the hallway to dispose of the rat, presumably in a trashcan somewhere besides his own living space; it appears he's done this before.


Jackie: Watching Leech interact with the cat, and eventually the dead rat, Tim looks a little more curious than he does disturbed - and maybe, maaaaaybe there’s a hint of amusement in his eyes, but it’s faded at best. He forces himself to look away and instead focuses on taking another drink of wine, which makes his supply half gone already - not that he started with much, but mixing alcohol with pills is probably a dangerous combination for him. Nodding for Leech’s excusal, he tilts his head back to rest it against the couch and closes his eyes, only speaking once Leech returns to the apartment. “Thought having a cat around was supposed to keep the rats out of your apartment."


Jay: "Well, it keeps the live rats out." Leech passes off this comment as he walks through - sure to close the door so Cat can't get out and bring him any other 'presents' - to the bathroom, to wash his hands thoroughly. He comes back to his chair, carefully wiping the spot where the rat laid with a washcloth, despite the fact that there's no evidence left over of the corpse recently resting there. Tossing the washcloth onto what appears to be one of Kellen's shirts on the floor, Leech takes up his wine and finishes the rest, speaking again as he refills the glass. "I oughta train her out of it, I guess, but she always looks so pleased with herself."


Jackie: Still with his eyes closed and head tilted back, Tim make a noise of understanding, since surely having a few delivered dead rats is better than having multiple live ones wandering around. “Can’t fault her on her instincts, I guess.” It takes him a moment, but Tim eventually opens his eyes and blinks over at his wine glass that he left on the coffee table, trying to decide if he really should partake in some more.


Jay: "No, those are pretty sound." Finishing with the wine bottle, he holds it out towards Timothy with a questioning look, since he seems to be thinking about it. "'s a little alarming, though, the fact that having dead rats deposited in my lap is actually the least disturbing part of my day, sometimes." He drinks deeply of the wine, as if to flood that line of thought from his mind.


Jackie: Tim’s eyes flicker from wine glass, to the wine bottle, then back again, and eventually he hauls himself up so he can grab his glass and hold it out for Leech to fill up as much as he seems fit. He doesn’t want to think about the other disturbing things Leech has to deal with, because he probably would categorize himself as one of them. “Sounds like you need a vacation.” Not that Timothy blames him - he could use one, himself; it’s a good thing spring break is approaching.


Jay: Leech obligingly fills that glass, not quite all the way, but certainly more than Timothy's previous glass. He smirks somewhat wryly as he sets the bottle on the table again. "A vacation would be nice, but I'd still have to take Kellen with me...and myself." The latter is probably most of the problem, but Leech doesn't dwell on it, sitting back and crossing his legs indian-style. The cat returns, this time without grisly gifts, and hops into Leech's lap where he absently pets her. "Jesse's invited him to go to California for spring break. I guess his...mother? still lives there. Kellen seems excited about it."


Jackie: He probably notices how much more his glass is filled, but surely Tim says nothing about it. Instead, he just sits up a little straighter and brings the drink to his mouth, taking another generous sip from it. But because the glass is more full, Tim miscalculates the movement, and some of the wine trickles out over his chin, jaw, and along his sweatshirt. Immediately, Tim sneers and moves to place his glass down, swearing briefly under his breath as he plucks at the fabric covering his torso to inspect the damage. “…yeah, Jesse mentioned that. Said he wanted to introduce Kellen to surfing.” Which…would certainly be a site to see, with Kellen’s lanky, pale form on the sunny beach.


Jay: "Here." Leech snatches another random clothing article (perhaps his brother was practicing his strip tease again) from the back of his chair and tosses it towards Timothy, to help mopping up the wine. He seems to find the idea of Kellen trying to surf amusing, too; he snorts, anyway. "Fuck...how many ways could that go wrong..." He shakes his head at the thought, but doesn't elaborate, just shrugging minutely. "Better him than me. I think Jesse said yer going to California, too? Is yer brother stationed there now?"


Jackie: Tim doesn’t react to the new item of clothing right away (save for a brief nod of thanks), still inspecting his dampened hoodie, which he eventually starts to tug off of his arms. “Jess seemed excited about that. He’s actually pretty good at surfing - he’d be a good teacher for Kellen.” The kid is practically a fish when it comes to the ocean - something that Tim has in common with him, or used to; he hasn’t been back to California in quite some time. With the pills taking effect, Tim’s body appears a little more loose, reactions somewhat delayed as he works to get the hoodie off; of course, he has some layers of t-shirts beneath it, but he’s still in the process of digging himself out of the thicker material when that question comes around. He doesn’t have it in him to say yes, he’s going to California - with Ness in tow - so he just glances at Leech and nods silently.


Jay: Leech isn't sure if that's a yes to the first question, the second, or both, but (not surprisingly) Timothy doesn't seem to want to discuss it. He just nods as well, refocusing on the cat, now lolling luxuriously on her back while he strokes her tummy, returning to the subject of his brother and Jesse since the boy doesn't seem to mind talking about them. "He might be arrite at it. He does skate sometimes when we're at home, I imagine it requires the same sorta balance, er whatever, to surf. But then there's the way he always manages to injure himself just walking around..."


Jackie: Once he’s got his arms free of his hoodie, Tim tugs the rest of the material off of his form, briefly disappearing beneath it before gathering it and inspecting the spill. He’s left in his short sleeve t-shirt that was once smug on him, arms exposed without much thought to the healing cuts along his inner arm, just above the crook of his elbow (so he can still keep them hidden when in his school uniform). None of this is horribly obvious to the casual looker, and Tim is at the moment distracted by his drugs and the spilled wine and the conversation to be too mindful of it all. “The ocean’s pretty forgiving - water instead of concrete. We used to practice our skateboarding tricks in the water first, or on the beach. Hurt less when we fucked up."


Jay: "Mm. Guess that's true...unless he runs into a shark, or something..." If anyone, he would expect it of Kellen. He doesn't notice Timothy's disrobing or what's revealed by it just yet, spacing out a little and still watching the cat, who now has hold of one of his hands (luckily without claws) and is gnawing affectionately on his fingers. Leech makes a mental note to wash his hands again, given what else the cat has gnawed recently. "I guess I'll prolly have to stay here, but that won' be so bad with most everyone gone."


Jackie: Honestly, if Jesse were to return from their trip with a crazy story about Kellen getting nibbled by a shark, Tim wouldn’t be at all surprised; the boys tend to attract the weirdest occurrences. Taking another gulp of wine, Lint reaches forward to place his glass back onto the coffee table, since he doesn’t need to be drinking it as fastly as he has been - he’s already starting to feel a bit swimmy. “You can’t get away, with most everyone else gone?"


Jay: Probably, Kellen would come home with a small shark to keep as a pet. For the question, he shakes his head, looking a bit depressed about it but resigned. "Not likely. Maddox's people won't want him back, no one here wants to be responsible for him - and I don't trust him near enough to want him in my home." The day was trial enough, with the Reed kid following him, sans leash this time. Of course he had no visitors himself, but just being around so many strangers seemed to put him on edge. Whatever it is that attaches Leech to the vicious boy, his tone doesn't sound at all affectionate.


Jackie: “Oh - right.” Tim had, somehow, forgotten about Maddox, and the moment Leech says the kid’s name, his muscles seize up. Luckily, due to the drug intake, he doesn’t get too wound up, and after a moment and a silent, invisible exhale, he’s able to relax again. Unsure of what else to say, he reaches back for the wine he doesn’t need and takes another gulp from it, eventually finding something semi-related that they can switch the conversation to. “Least it’ll be mostly empty here. It’s not too bad when it’s quiet.”


Jay: Leech's mind is drawn back into focus some by that clipped response, and it doesn't take much for him to be reminded of Timothy's illogical jealousies. He glances up sideways at the boy's face, and he doesn't appear to be too distressed, but that could mean nothing. Retrieving his own wine glass, he takes a fortifying drink, feeling a strange need to justify himself, or maybe reassure Timothy. "I had an...interesting conversation with yer friend Lars today, about Maddox. He seemed to think that the kid following me around, and me tellin' him what to do, meant...well, something; Lars wasn' real specific about his suspicions. Had to remind him that it's my job, to keep violent little freaks like Maddox in line." Although he'd probably been much less graceless than that when he explained it to Lars, maybe nearly as graceless as Lars himself was in voicing those suspicions.


Jackie: Tim is maybe ready to sit back without another drink, hoping that whatever mention of Maddox is over with. But then Leech goes into further detail, which is just strange to Timothy, and he can’t help but be somewhat intrigued, keeping an ear perked even if he can’t look at the other boy as he talks. That explanation, in other circumstances, would probably warrant some sly comment, but it seems as though Lars already took care of that - and it’s not like Tim has much emotion, or right, to care about how Leech interacts with the student. “Lars is really good at making everyone else’s business his own.” This isn’t said with venom, but is an obvious dig not only at his friend - who has been relentlessly hounding him for weeks - but maybe even subtly to Leech’s story, as if saying that he doesn’t have to explain anything. After that, he takes another drink.


Jay: Of course, Leech has no need to justify himself to Timothy - no more than he needed to justify himself to Lars - but he can't help feeling the urge to do so here, where with the older boy, he felt indignant that he was even expected to account for it. His mouth crooks up minutely, barely visible, for Timothy's response. "He does. Mebbe it's meant to be flattering." More likely, he accosted Leech more for Timothy's sake than his own - whatever liking there once was between himself and Lars has pretty well evaporated by now. In any case, the parasite doesn't sound convinced. "Yer other friend seemed more contained...although he did glare at Jimmy off and on."


Jackie: Tim only hums for that observation, because it’s partly true; Lars only gets involved because he very obviously cares about Timothy, whether it’s an intimate feeling or not. And if Tim weren’t in the state he is in, and perhaps not the one at fault for the relationship between himself and Leech ending, he’d maybe feel thankful for the support. Instead, lately it’s just been an annoyance. Glancing around, he spots Leech’s cigarette pack on the edge of the couch and tips over to retrieve one, stuffing it into his mouth and igniting the end of it. “Matt? He doesn’t care for junkies.”


Jay: Leech makes a motion somewhere between a shrug and a nod, less restrained than his usual movements, perhaps due to the wine. "Most people don't, after they know one. He oughta come 'round more, mebbe it'd wear off on Kellen." The cat seems to lose interest in Leech's hand, batting it away and flipping over to dive off the chair and start sniffing around the room, which is no doubt full of interesting scents. Leech takes the opportunity of his lap being free to lean over, stretching to snag the nearly-empty wine bottle and refill his glass - but he pauses once the bottle is in hand, still bent down, looking curiously the marks on the inside of Timothy's arm.


Jackie: Tim is still tipped over to the side, haphazardly strewn across the couch as he works to light that cigarette, talking around the filter as one hand flicks the lighter a few times. “If it hasn’t worn off from you, doubt it’d work coming from Matt.” Not that Leech is rude to Jimmy, or constantly glaring at him, but Kellen has to know that Leech isn’t exactly thrilled that he’s hanging out with a heroin addict. Obviously to Leech’s observation, Tim rocks himself back upright once his cigarette is lit and snags his wine, finishing the glass before reaching to once more place it on the coffee table with no intention of refilling it. “Least he isn’t coercing Kellen.”


Jay: "No..." Leech answers sort of distantly, sitting back up slowly and still eyeing those wounds, not certain whether he should say anything about them or not. "No, Jimmy wouldn' do that." He forces his gaze away, watching carefully as he pours his wine.

His first unpleasant thought is that Ness put them there, but on consideration, this seems unlikely - Ness has been kept away from the main body of students except for during classes, and even if he weren't, he definitely (as Leech has cause to know) sees blades as weapons rather than implements of pleasure. The only reason Ness would cut Timothy would be if he was asked, and Leech doubts that the boy would ask - but still he dreads hearing that he's wrong. The obvious alternative is that Timothy did it himself, which is less viscerally disturbing, although that's probably due to a lack of sensibility on Leech's part. He takes a slow drink, gaze flicking back to that arm as he replaces the wine bottle, torn between speaking and not.



Jackie: Those words come out a little more distant and timid than Tim would have guessed they would, but he doesn’t dwell on that thought too much; certainly Leech knows Jimmy better than he does, and maybe he has more than one soft spot for him. So he just nods in agreement and looks back down at the cigarette he has balanced between two fingers, a thin line of smoke wafting up from it.

The silence that lingers on is uncomfortable, but Timothy struggles to break it. He could continue with the conversation about Jimmy, but that seems over with - and he definitely doesn’t want to go back to the discussion about Maddox. So Tim just keeps his eyes locked to his cigarette as he attempts to keep dialogue going. “Doubt Jesse would stand for it, anyways. Pretty sure he keeps Kellen occupied with enough weed as is.”


Jay: Leech doesn't have much of a soft spot for Jimmy at all, though he puts up with him well enough as Kellen's friend, but he certainly had a Very Serious Discussion with him, when Kellen wasn't around, about that addiction and the things that would happen to him if he ever found out that Kellen was partaking in it. Happily, Jimmy was quick to assure him that he would never countenance it, himself, since he knows better than most the sort of ruin heroin can make of a person. Leech doesn't bother to relate all this, distracted still, though Timothy's words draw him out of his reverie momentarily. "Ya really think Jesse would recognize it? Mebbe if he saw the track marks, but otherwise..." He trails off, waving a hand dismissively towards Jesse's innocence and striving for a casual tone as he moves on. "Speakin' of which. I hope those heal before ya gotta see that doctor again." He nods in the general direction of Timothy's arm and the lacerations there. "He'll prolly take me out an' have me lynched, he finds out you're cutting yerself." Hopefully cutting himself; hopefully not letting anyone else do it, though Leech knows it isn't his place to complain if so.


Jackie: Tim tilts his head in consideration, but it doesn’t take him long to determine that Jesse would catch on - not because of his detective skills, but because Kellen isn’t the slyest of creatures, especially not when it comes to his room mate - and surely Jess would find or see something foreboding. Similarly, Lint keeps this all to himself because it really isn’t worth discussing; it’s not like Kellen is delving into anything beyond some playful drugs and ouiji boards, anyways.

For a brief moment, Tim’s guard is down, perhaps drawn away from the discussion that isn’t about him. But that all quickly goes away when Leech starts talking again, and almost immediately his left hand goes to the crook of his right arm and covers the reddened marks there, as if that will do anything at this point. At the same point, Tim’s eyes dart up to Leech’s face, partly to read the expression but mostly out of shock, however he isn’t able to keep them there, so he instead looks off to the side and talks quietly. “…they’re old. They’ll be gone by then.”


Jay: Typically, Leech's expression doesn't give much away when Tim glances at it; a slight tightness in the corners of his mouth is all that's shown. He looks back down when the boy moves to cover the marks, debating on speaking further, but eventually giving in. "Well, if not, ya can just tell him 'I'm fine' and I'm sure he'll be convinced. Ya got a lot of practice with it." He doesn't sound condemnatory, really, just dry and a little sarcastic. The boy's defensive reaction somehow convinced the parasite that nobody else is responsible, that he did this to himself.


Jackie: For some reason, those words spark something within Tim that isn’t suffocated by whatever numbness he’s been experience, and his fingers dig into the flesh just above his wounds tightly. Tim believes the emotion to be frustration, mixed with annoyance, no doubt brought on by Leech’s sarcastic tone, and without thinking he snaps back: “What the fuck do you want me to say?” At that point, he releases his grip and raises one arm up so he can drag from his cigarette, its end a longer tip of ash than usual.


Jay: Leech's eyes widen slightly in surprise, but he seems mostly unruffled in the way of leeches. It's only surprising that the kid appears to feel enough to snap at him. "Ya could give 'I'm not fine' a try, fer a change." But he shakes his head even as he speaks, as if he's already regretting the snarky comment. Leaning in, he drops his own cigarette into a convenient bottle, watching the operation more closely than necessary and choosing his next words with more care. "I would like to know why you did it." So high on his arm, it's most likely not a suicide attempt - though the kid has more than enough reason to try it - but Leech is pretty sure that Timothy isn't the sort to injure himself for mere sensual pleasure.


Jackie: “I :am: fine.” This is said more sternly, more forcibly than his previous times, and Timothy’s eyes narrow as he glares down at his feet, mentally berating himself for even taking off his sweatshirt in the first place. When he continues, there’s a bit of desperation in his voice. “I :have: to say I’m fine, or else I’m never gonna :be: fine, Leech.” Despite that not being very clear in meaning, it seems to strike a chord with the younger boy, and he raises both hands up to rub at his face - his cigarette being flicked over into the ashtray without any care. It appears that his prior anxiety and panic is swooping back in, and in record speed, and he starts to curl down into himself as he sits in the middle of the couch.


Jay: Watching the boy crumple in on himself, Leech's eyes narrow in concern, and he starts gnawing on the inside of his cheek. He definitely wasn't intending to cause this, and he can't even be irritated that his question wasn't really answered; it's pretty obvious why. "But ya don't appear to be convincing yerself any more than anyone else. It's not...weak, to admit that yer not okay." Leech doesn't have any cliche stock homilies about acceptance being the first step to recovery, thankfully - Timothy surely gets enough of that shit from his counselors - but he probably means something along the same lines.


Jackie: Tucked into himself, his head nearly in his own lap as he curls his hands around his scalp, Tim shakes his head - not just to Leech’s words, but to the entire situation. No tears are forming, and he doesn’t feel the urge to cry, but there’s a panic in his chest that’s mildly tempered by the sedatives he’s consumed. “I’m :fine:.” This time, he just sounds like he’s trying to convince Leech in the hopes that they can drop this. “There’s nothing else to ‘admit’ to. Everyone has their :thing:.” Yes, like cutting oneself.


Jay: Leech finds his fingertips drumming restlessly against his thigh and forcibly stops the fidgeting, trying to repress the urge to touch the kid falling apart on his couch. His voice lowers some more, rough but peculiarly gentle in tone. "Timothy. I know you better than that." Surely he didn't mean that he expected Timothy to admit anything to him, in any case, but he obviously doesn't buy that this is just 'his thing'. Without really meaning to, Leech has inched to the bottom edge of the chaise, closer to the couch and turned to face it, but at least the concern isn't overwhelming in his face, still just the tension of his mouth and slightly narrowed eyes - anyone who didn't know Leech would probably read it as almost clinical, a detached observation.


Jackie: Tim maybe scoffs - gently - for those words, but it’s more like a muted chirp of a laugh, because yes Leech knows him, but things have quickly changed and sometimes Tim feels like it never really happened in the first place. Back and forth, he rubs his hands over the back of his head, his mohawk now gone in favor of a short buzz cut that was traditionally what he wore up until a few months ago. He still doesn’t lift his head to look at Leech as he speaks. “It’s no different than someone else doing it.”


Jay: Leech doesn't argue with that scoff, but he does narrow an eye doubtfully for the following words, irrepressibly reminded of the times he injured Timothy, himself, in similar ways. "'s not like - " but he cuts himself off before he goes any farther on that track, because it wouldn't do either of them any good to be reminded of it; still, he knows that the emotions that were in effect when Timothy cut himself were likely vastly different from those in play when Leech cut him. Giving a quiet hiss of exasperation - at himself or at Timothy, it's hard to say - Leech leans away from the boy, straightening up. His next words are more carefully considered, though still softer than usual. "I didn' mean to upset you. I'm sorry."


Jackie: “It’s a release.” This is said almost immediately after Leech disagrees with him, and with enough sincerity that it’s nearly impossible to convince the younger boy otherwise. It could probably be argued that cutting himself, or having someone else do it (regardless of intent) is not at all healthy, and Tim knows this - knows that should his doctor ever find out, there’d be no logic to convince him that this is fine. Almost like he can’t help it, Timothy continues, his voice sounding a little more desperate. “I’ve been two steps from the ledge for fucking :weeks: and I just— I need it. I need something that isn’t :this:.”


Jay: Leech wouldn't be the first, or even the last person to say it was unhealthy, in any case. He nods some, looking down at his hands - if he keeps watching Timothy, he'll have more trouble resisting the urge to touch him, and the parasite knows that sort of comfort would likely not be welcome. "I know it is, but aside from that...'s still different." Biting at the inside of his cheek as the boy continues, he notices his hands are fidgeting again, but he doesn't bother to try to stop them.

After a moment, he speaks hesitantly, a little uncharacteristically stammering over his words. "Yer not - I know I'm not the person you'd want - I mean, I jus' can't help but..." Trailing off with another low hiss, he finishes more decidedly: "Mebbe I can't help at all. But I want to."


Jackie: “How. How is it fucking different?” At this, Tim finally lifts his head up, directing his focus towards Leech with blue eyes that are lacking their prior intensity. And before it can even be considered, or assumed - not that Leech would, but certainly a psychiatrist would: “I’m not trying to kill myself.”

Shaking his head, he looks away again, maybe not up for thinking down the path of Leech helping him; it’s emotionally draining, and he’s spent the past few weeks trying to get over the dude. “I don’t need help. I’m fine, honest.”


Jay: It would occur to Leech, it already has, but it was dismissed, so she shakes his head dismissively. "It's jus'...different. What yer trying to release is different." Rubbing his hands over his thighs, he looks around until he can locate his cigarettes, snatching at them to light up. An incredulous snort is drawn from him. "Are we back to that? Ya just told me you've been two steps from the ledge and now yer fine again." He doesn't sound too accusatory, at least. It's obvious that Timothy is rebuilding whatever defenses dropped for a moment, and though it's sad they have to be put up against him, Leech has no desire to send him into another panic. "Mebbe Lars is right. The only way I can help ya is to stay away from you."


Jackie: “But I’m dealing with it, Leech. I’m handling it. I may not be fucking happy, but I :can: be fine. And it’s not different; it’s the same release, the same…trying to feel something else.” Again, Tim shakes his head, looking off to the other side of the room as he wills himself to not freak the fuck out, at the moment. His hands drop from around his neck and instead go back to rubbing at a wrist distractedly. The mention of Lars, and his suggestion that these two shouldn’t try to be friends, sends a sharp pain into his gut, like a reminder of what once was here, between these two. And obviously, any thought of that brings forth the reminder that he fucked it up, and Tim’s panic starts to swirl back to activity. “I should go.”


Jay: Belatedly, the thought occurs to Leech that maybe he is wrong - maybe it isn't different. Maybe Timothy was this miserable even when he was wearing his collar, and the cutting didn't have much to do with Leech at all, it didn't matter who was administering the release. This unpleasant realization actually makes him flinch and he drops his cigarette, leaning down more slowly to pluck it up from the hardwood, groping a little clumsily in his distraction. The sudden sharp pain of the burning cherry barely registers, but it does let him locate the thing to pluck it up.

When he straightens up, he drops the cigarette carelessly into the overstuffed ashtray and absently takes the second knuckle of his middle finger between his teeth to soothe the small burn there by sucking on it. He doesn't respond to that suggestion, just looks at Timothy over the back of his hand, his eyes dark with uncertainty and sadness, probably a little pained, and not from the burn. Of course, none of this would be visible to a casual observer, but Timothy would likely be able to see it - if he bothered to look.


Jackie: Undoubtedly, the release is vastly different, whether Tim realizes it or not. The control of the administration, general carefulness, and the mindset he was in when Leech was cutting him isn’t at all similar to what’s going on now; the boy is pretty careless in his cutting, and all it is serving to do is further numb the boy to the world. Despite the medicines he constantly has in his system, the pills Leech gave him and the wine they’ve drank, Tim is back to having his entire body tense up and his heart rate increase. Looking back over at Leech for the lack of words, he surely notices the emotions swirling behind his sharp blue eyes, but giving them a name and recognizing them for what they are is way too dangerous, so he just shakily nods, like this is all good and they’re fine and he pushes himself up off the couch to head towards the door without saying anything more.


Jay: Leech continues watching the boy, too much going on in his head to really pay close attention to everything outside of it, but he does at least remove the finger from his mouth. Timothy standing up requires a little more focus and the parasite's head jerks up, finally processing what the last thing he said. He should just let Timothy leave now, no doubt Snider will be prowling about, and in any case the kid is obviously not in a good state. But after the previous revelation Leech can't find it in himself to keep him here; he's not even sure he wants him here. He reaches up though, grabbing Timothy's arm loosely to detain him a moment. "I'm sorry, Timothy." Peering up at the boy so earnestly from the foot of the chaise, his eyes all wide, just now Leech looks as young as his brother. "I'm sorry fer making it worse."


Jackie: As soon as Leech snags his arm, Timothy freezes as if he’s been locked into place - which it certainly feels like, with Leech actually touching him and pining him with those big, wide eyes. The apologies don’t seem to penetrate too deeply into him, mostly because the parasite doesn’t have anything to apologize for, so Tim just shrugs gently, looking down at him hopelessly. “You didn’t. This is…it’s just me.” As if to say Tim has been like this all along. He shrugs again, more defeated. “Just me.”


Jay: The hand around Timothy's arm (not the saliva-soaked one, for the record) loosens some but seems reluctant to entirely let go. The response makes him cock his head to the side, looking, if anything, more morose than before. He knows well enough that Timothy hasn't been like this all along; in previous years he wasn't the most upbeat kid, but the events of this year have obviously ground him down a lot. "Then...I'm sorry I didn' make it any better." Finally looking away, he lets his fingers slide from Timothy's arm, lighting another cigarette and hunching over defeatedly as he smokes it.


Jackie: That adjusted apology is probably the worst one out of all, because how can Leech ever think he didn’t help Timothy? That question keeps playing over and over in his mind as soon as Leech says it, and the rush of pain and longing forces him to close his eyes and ward off any tears; he had felt the sensitive prickling around his eyes, but luckily nothing wells up enough to even be considered a tear. Tilting his head to the side, Tim remains still even after Leech lets go and his voice drops in volume to barely above a whisper. “You did. How can—“ But then he shakes his head, stopping himself from questioning it all.


Jay: A bit surprised that the kid stays when he's released, Leech lifts his head a little and looks towards him out of the corner of his eyes. The idea that he did do any good seems foreign and unthinkable now, thanks to the shift in his mood. "I don' see how. And if I ever did, it musta been canceled out." He looks back at his hands, shaking his head and trying not to let himself get any more emotional. Luckily, he has years of practice with that.


Jackie: “You’re not the one that fucked it all up.” This is said so immediate, so off the cuff, that Tim didn’t even have time to think it over and contemplate what box this conversation is over. But certainly that’s been his mindset ever since Leech let him go; that it’s all Tim’s fault, that he fucked it all up and Leech did what he had to do. But now that he’s said it out loud, and admitted it to the person he fucked up everything with, there’s a new layer of anxiety and fear and heartbreak. Enough so, that he actually turns around a bit and raises both hands to shield his face as he works to slow down his beating heart.


Jay: Leech looks up sharply, eyes narrowing in concern again. "Fuck, Timothy..." While he can't disagree that the kid did fuck up, as far as the rules of their relationship went, Leech wouldn't want him dwelling on it like this. When he turns around, Leech pulls himself to his feet and steps closer, near enough to touch, though he hesitates to do that. "It wasn' like that, I didn'...I couldn't really give you what you needed." He pauses, not wanting to voice the next thought because the mere mention of Ness makes him feel...very unpleasant things. But maybe it needs to be said, so he swallows harshly and forces it out, by necessity sounding fairly blank. "I did ask ya to make a choice. You jus' took longer than I expected to make it."


Jackie: Now that he’s not facing Leech, it makes it a little easier to collect himself, but there’s still that present feeling of an impending spiral, and right now Tim’s trying to avoid going down it. Hearing his full name throughout this conversation has been a bit of a double edged sword; surely hearing it in that parasitic voice is initially soothing, it’s also hurts like hell.

“No - no, you did, I just…fucked it up.” Which is so true, there’s no denying it. “I fucked it up, Leech. I know it. It’s my fucking fault.” He’s still hiding behind his hands, so his words are muffled, but Tim’s shoulders are very obviously tensing, and he’s curling into himself again. His voice has started to crack towards the end of his speaking, a sign that he’s near to crying, so Tim swallows it down in an attempt to stop it before it even starts.


Jay: There's a quiet sigh following Timothy's words; Leech isn't sure how to convince him otherwise, because he's obviously as stubbornly certain of this as he is of being 'fine'. "It's not yer fault, kid. It jus'...didn't work out. That isn' all on you, it was the both of us." The way the boy is curling up and hiding from him definitely doesn't make Leech feel any better, and is making it increasingly hard not to reach for him. When he feels the heat of the cigarette, burnt down to the filter now, against his fingers, Leech turns slightly to drop it into an empty bottle. Turning back, he continues the motion of his hand and brings it to rest, very lightly, between Timothy's shoulder blades, unsure of what else he can say - and nearly sure nothing he said would do any good, only serve to make it worse, as usual.


Jackie: Tim immediately starts shaking his head when Leech disputes what was said, and he doesn’t stop doing it even as the boy talks - knowing that everything he said isn’t true, that this really is all Tim’s fault. There are definite tears hiding out beneath his eyelashes, but thankfully it’s hidden with Tim’s eyes shut and his hands covering his face. Still, the way his breathing is starting to stutter is a very telling sign that the boy is inches from breaking apart, and that gentle touch to his back seals the deal. Rather than turning into the touch, Tim’s knees buckle and he crumples a bit to the floor, his legs tucking under as he curls into himself. With his head down near his knees, Tim finally lets a sob out - and the boy definitely sounds like he’s in pain simply by the strain in his voice. “I’m sorry - I’m sorry.”


Jay: As expected, Timothy's condition deteriorates more and the parasite hisses to himself, wishing he would have just let him go earlier, or not brought him back here at all. When he sinks down, Leech moves to the floor along with him, tucking his legs beneath himself naturally and inching closer on his knees. "Don't, Timothy. Ya don' gotta apologize anymore." The hand on the boy's back moves up to the nape of his neck, thumb lightly massaging the tight muscles. This is starting to remind him forcefully of the encounter they had after Timothy came back from his brief escapade with Ness, when Leech let him go. Even with as angry and hurt as Leech was then, it was hard as hell to turn away from him; now it doesn't even cross his mind.


Jackie: Now bent into himself, Tim starts to lightly rock back and forth, his entire body trembling as he allows these emotions to formulate and manifest inside. He tries to catch his breath, but it’s useless - he just lets out another sob, and moves his hands from in front of his face to the back of his head, as if he keep himself hunkered down like this. “I’m sorry, I’m so fucking sorry—“ Clearly, he has ignored that suggestion from the parasite. It’s doubtful he even heard it, or at least even processed the words.


Jay: "Fer fuck's sake..." This is muttered under his breath to himself, and Leech bites into the inside of his cheek to keep anything else unconsidered from escaping. Giving in, he moves even closer until he's right next to Tim, sort of beside/behind him, wrapping an arm beneath his torso to try to make him sit up - although it really ends with Leech just halfway pulling him into his lap. He speaks a little louder, to penetrate the panic, and almost commanding. "Timothy, stop it. Ya don't need to apologize."


Jackie: If he wasn’t so wound up, Tim would maybe react to those touches some more - either shy away from them, or turn into them so completely. But as it is, he continues to hunker down on the floor, giving up on his constant apologizing and instead making a pretty pathetic sounding whine, like he can’t physically take this anymore. When Leech hauls him into his lap, Tim leans into the touch, but he doesn’t dare lift his head or paw at the other boy’s body - instead, he just ducks his head down until he can hide it against one of Leech’s collarbones, ashamed and tired and so fucking drained. From there, he lets himself cry.


Jay: Leech frowns minutely when the boy collapses against him and gives into his tears, but he has stopped apologizing, so the parasite decides to count that as a victory. He does have a little more practice dealing with this sort of panic, and goes with his instincts, resting his chin against one of those sharp shoulders and murmuring in a low voice, meaningless reassuring things for the most part. "It's arrite, Timothy...ya got nothing to be sorry for...just breathe." Since he doesn't seem averse to the touch, Leech winds the opposite arm around him as well, the first returning to stroking gently along the nape of his neck.


Jackie: If he wasn’t so panicked and an absolute wreck, Tim would maybe recognize this embrace and suffer from the remaining desire to just always have this, all of the time. But since he’s a mess, he can’t process everything - he just knows that this is safe, so he presses his face in harder against Leech’s chest and shifts a little bit more so he can use both hands to gently grip the other boy’s shirt. Although the hold isn’t tight, it’s very desperate, like he just needs to make sure the parasite isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The tears that manage to escape get caught up and soaked into Leech’s shirt, and Tim hiccups a few times to try to tame his shattered breathing. Of course, this doesn’t work, but it doesn’t stop him from trying to talk again. “Yes I do, Leech…you know it. You know it."


Jay: Leech makes a faint shushing noise when the boy speaks, using the hold on his back to draw him more completely into his lap - shifting his own legs to a more comfortable position to accommodate. "No, ya don't, ya don't owe me anything. I forgive you." That's a little hard to say, but even as he says it Leech realizes it's true - that it's been true for a while. He might hurt, might not be happy about it, might hate Ness harder than he hates almost anyone, but still he's forgiven. Pushing that line of thought from his mind, he just continues petting along Timothy's back soothingly.


Jackie: Following Leech’s movements, Tim shifts around to better fit himself into that lap, his own bent legs straddling the other’s in the least sexually driven way imaginable. He tugs on the boy’s shirt gently, like he either needs him closer, or needs for himself to be closer, and then draws his head up enough only to duck it into the familiar crook of Leech’s neck, damp eyes connecting with warm skin. Listening to those words, they do do something to Tim’s form, where his muscles minutely relax, but it’s nowhere near enough to prove that he’s actually calming down. This time, when he speaks, it’s with a very hushed voice, and he only manages out Leech’s name - unsure of what else he was going to say, and if he should even say it. “Leech…”


Jay: Somewhere, he's pleased that the boy doesn't argue with him, waiting for him to stop shifting around to replace his chin on a shoulder. He's certainly doing his best to ignore how comfortable it is, being this close, how familiar it feels. At the murmur of his name, he pauses, waits for something else to be said, but when nothing does he replies in kind, his voice equally hushed, but more raspy. "Timothy...?"


Jackie: As soon as Tim says that name, he knows that he can’t go on with saying anything else - it won’t amount to anything good, and truthfully he isn’t even sure what he wants to communicate beyond the fact that he misses the other boy horribly. So Timothy swallows it down and shakes his head, dismissing his own words and the other boy’s question in favor of squirming in impossibly closer.


Jay: Leech can practically hear Timothy biting back his words, but he can't make any assumptions about what those words might have been. He's more uncertain now about whatever it was between them, than he ever was when it was going on; just because he can feel the familiarity in their current posture, and aches because of it, doesn't mean that the boy feels the same. So after waiting a while for a response that doesn't come, he doesn't press the issue, just glides a hand back up the length of that prominent spine to let his numb fingertips stroke over the short hair along the back of his scalp, stubbornly keeping the position until he's forced to move.


Jackie: There’s no doubt that these boys have been in this same positioning before, although in much different circumstances, and even if Tim doesn’t allow himself to think about those times, there’s an innate familiarity and comfort in being like this, despite his crying and general mess of an existence. Now that he’s as curled up into Leech as possible, Tim releases a grip on the boy’s shirt and instead lifts it up, grabbing onto Leech’s neck and holding him close - a clear sign that it’s not just Timothy needing a form to find comfort in, but also that he wants it to be Leech.


Jay: It's unlikely that he'd come to that conclusion, himself, but he's selfish enough to enjoy the touch, and take comfort from it for himself. It's been a very long time since he was this close to anyone, after all; or anyone except Kellen, and even if this isn't precisely sexual, it's still different, more poignant, than lazing around with his brother. Timothy seems to have calmed down some now, which is all to the good, and Leech continues to let his fingers trace up and down along his scalp and neck, maybe to prevent him from getting wound up again, but also just because it feels nice. The silence might start to strain a bit, but Leech can't force himself to break it, can't think of anything to say; instead he just sighs through his nose, near noiseless, and tilts his head to rest his cheek against that shoulder, instead


Jackie: The attention to his neck does more than just soothe him - it also prevents him from clawing at the skin there, which he tends to do quite frequently when he’s in distress. The fact that Leech probably knows that, and might be partly doing that for that very reason, is too much for Timothy to think about right now. Although he’s calmed down enough to where he’s only really sniffling and breathing a little laboredly, Tim’s body is a little shakey, which is felt in the hand gripping Leech’s neck, and the one that is gripping desperately to his shirt. Feeling the warmth in the crook of that neck, Tim moves to nuzzle in it more, pressing his nose to a pulse point and trying to press his gratitude in there, as well - since he surely doesn’t have the words for it, right now.


Jay: With difficulty, Leech represses a shiver when Timothy nuzzles against him, but he does repress it, only taking in a sharp but silent breath. Both hands still, on that neck and the small of his back respectively, but loosen not at all. Leech coughs quietly to clear his throat, to keep his voice from coming out thick or choked as he imagines it might otherwise, but naturally it's still low and rough when he does speak. "That's a little better. Yeh?" He's talking about Timothy's panic, but it occurs to him that it can be read differently. He's not sure if he wants it to be misunderstood or not.


Jackie: It’s pretty damning to Timothy that he can breathe in this familiar scent, one that smells like home and safety and lust and adoration. He knows the expanse of skin just below his nose quite well, knows how soft and giving it is, but he makes no move to test it out and see if it’s still the same. Instead, he just focuses on his breathing, and nods faintly for that question - naturally prompted to answer it. “Yes, S—“ Oh, but then he quickly shuts the fuck up, the slip up brought on by their positioning and the familiarity and maybe even his desire. He fixes it immediately, voice low. “…yeh. Thanks.” Kind of taking that as a hint that the embrace is over, Tim starts to pull himself back together. He doesn’t work himself off of that lap, but he does pull his head back.


Jay: It's tolerably obvious what Timothy was going to say, and before he can stop himself, Leech flinches for it, shoulders tensing suddenly, eyes closing in a wince. If Timothy weren't so close it probably wouldn't be noticeable, barely a moment, but he is that close. Leech can't bring himself to open his eyes immediately, though his voice sounds normal enough when he speaks. "'s good." Feeling the boy start to draw back, he thoughtlessly and nearly desperately tightens his hold, still not fully recovered from that brief slip of the tongue - he doesn't want Timothy to lean back far enough to see his expression, whatever it might be. But since the boy doesn't move away completely, the grip relaxes again, and the parasite even lifts his head. He just doesn't move it very far away, nor turn it towards Timothy.


Jackie: Since he :is: that close, Tim feels that flinch and the accompanying wince, and there are muscles in his back that tighten for it. Nodding for that affirmative, he drops the hand he has holding on to Leech’s neck, and continues to squirm a little bit - not exactly pulling away from Leech, but maybe putting some space in between their forms. One of his hands moves back to his own face, and he wipes at it tiredly, clearing away the tear streaks and hoping to get rid of any expression there. Still, he’s fairly close to the other boy’s face, but he likewise isn’t looking at him, and instead has his eyes casted down, still feeling the despair from his earlier slip up. He takes a careful, shakey breath, and tries to find some strength to get up and walk away so as not to make Leech any more uncomfortable.


Jay: Since Timothy seems to actually want to move, Leech regretfully gives in - a little. He leans away, both hands dropping from their places to rest on his sides, just above his hips. The fact that one thumb is curved around just where he cut Timothy himself is actually a total coincidence, and Leech doesn't recognize it immediately. His eyes finally open, glancing sideways at the occupier of his lap, who looks just as miserable as previously if not as frantic. The shaky breath causes a sudden pang just beneath Leech's breastbone and impulsively he reaches up again, right hand locking over the muscle at the juncture of neck and shoulder. "Stay with me." The low, demanding words come out without consideration, without any warning even to Leech, and he immediately backpedals. "Not 'cuz-- I mean...well, no." Looking away, Leech scowls at himself, biting the inside of his cheek hard and giving a tense shake of the head.


Jackie: Although Leech doesn’t recognize it immediately, Tim does - but that may be mostly because that area of skin is sensitive right now, bruised a bit from Tim’s attempts to try to get the marking there to not be as visible - or so he likes to think. More likely, he’s been slapping and scratching at the scar compulsively in an attempt to recreate the pain. Dropping the hand from his face, Tim’s eyes close briefly for that voice and the tone that it uses, an influx of memories coming from it. Naturally, the words themselves strike a different chord, and almost immediately Tim lifts his gaze, looking at the older boy with wide, curious, nervous eyes. Almost immediately, he starts to nod, but stops when the parasite continues to talk. Then he just stops everything and looks at Leech, his body still but his expression clearly confused. He doesn’t use words to ask for clarification; instead, he just blinks and keeps his focus, looking for all the world like he just wants to curl up next to this boy for whatever reasons they find appropriate.


Jay: Luckily, Leech doesn't catch that interrupted nod, still glaring at the wall, but when he looks back hesitantly he does notice that expression and reads it well enough. He closes his eyes for a moment, like an extended blink, and inhales slowly, then turns to look more directly at Timothy. "I would like you to. But I'm sure Lars would be real pissed with both of us if ya did." That's probably an attempt at humor, but it doesn't succeed very well. His thumbs are both skimming over the skin beneath them, more fidgety than intentional, but Leech abruptly realizes their placement - one over the space where he'd carved his mark in Timothy's skin, the opposite on the spot he so often bit down and kept perpetually bruised. Momentarily overwhelmed, feeling weak, incapable of dealing with the situation, both hands retreat and run over Leech's scalp, ruffling the already-messy mohawk, while he bows his head. "No, 's a bad idea." His tone is strained, and he's obviously trying to convince himself more than Timothy.


Jackie: It’s oddly comforting for Tim to see Leech like this - struggling for clarity - because it’s something that he’s been struggling with ever since he was released from the older boy. So to see him battling with whatever is going on in his head, Tim feels a brief moment of assurance, like he isn’t the only one fighting his own thoughts. The attempt at humor doesn’t work to make Tim smile or laugh, but it does bring some levity to the situation - and Tim is immediately struck with a strong realization that he doesn’t give a fuck what Lars has to say, right now. He could maybe voice that, but right now he has no voice, his throat is a little raw from his labored breathing, and he’s still working to get that under control. Watching the parasite break down a little bit, and very much hearing how he’s trying to convince himself (when it’s becoming clear that neither one doesn’t want this), Tim sits back a little bit and rolls his lips together. Rather than trying to get Leech to look at him again, Tim moves his hands to grab at Leech’s, pulling them away from that face only to lace their fingers and drop them to their laps. There, Tim stretches his fingers and traces along Leech’s, head tilted down as he responds quietly. “I don’t think it is.”


Jay: When those hands take his, Leech grips at them tightly enough to give away some of his own desperation. Obviously, Timothy isn't the only one having difficulty keeping himself together; Leech just hides it better. Possibly because he's been doing it in varying degrees for about ten years. Blinking his eyes open again, he stares at their linked hands for a long moment. He should probably be weighing the coincidences, reminding himself of the reasons it is a bad idea, a very, very bad idea, but instead his mind is gone completely blank. When he lifts his head, he's a little startled to find Timothy's face so close to his own - not having noticed the boy tilting his head down - but he doesn't draw back, just visually searches what he can see of that face, before murmuring, hardly audible even with the closeness. "Please stay."


Jackie: Tim continues to curl and uncurl his fingers, aligning them up with Leech’s and then lacing them back together methodically. Watching it happen, it’s all too easy to be reminded of how well they look together, or how often Tim has griped at them - whether it when they were in a crowded area and didn’t want to separate, or in the middle of sex, or driving into the city. All of those memories make Tim’s stomach clench, and he rolls his lips again to prevent any pleading from coming out. Rather than lifting his head to look back at Leech, whose face is now much closer to his own, Tim looks up from under his eyelashes and nods faintly, not trusting his own voice beyond a very quiet, “Okay.” And once that’s said, he lets out a more audible sigh and closes his eyes, fighting down the butterflies that are battling in his gut.


Jay: Leech feels some of the tension dissipate from his own body when Timothy agrees so easily, echoing the boy's sigh. It would be entirely too easy to attach his mouth to the other, so close, but Leech resists the temptation - Timothy didn't say 'okay' to that, after all, only to stay, and the parasite doesn't have any desire to make his mindspace more complicated than it is. Instead, when he leans in, he just returns to his previous place, resting his forehead against Timothy's shoulder this time. He keeps one hand attached to Timothy's, but the opposite releases and slides around his lower back again, fingers spreading wide across the muscles there.


Jackie: There’s definitely a long moment where Tim stays very still, gauging Leech’s reaction to his answer; of course, he knows how quick and easy it would be for them to attack their mouths and go down that rabbit hole, but it doesn’t seem like either boy is willing to jump into that - despite the desire to. A part of him is screaming for them to stop, to let go and go to separate rooms and not torment each other all over again, but Tim is decisively ignoring that inner voice. As Leech moves to duck down against his shoulder, Tim lets out a breath he wasn’t aware he was holding, and he tilts his head to the side, silently contemplating why Leech’s reaction was so anticipated. They stay like that for a few long moments, but Tim uses the hand still holding Leech’s to squeeze it gently and then tug, the rest of his body starting to squirm. He uses the same low, quiet tone as he’s done since crumpling to the floor. “C’mon.”


Jay: The moment is a little unexpected; Leech would be content to stay right where he is for a long time, but at the urging he sits back, looking at the boy with not much curiosity. "Arrite." All complacence, since the vital point as been decided, Leech waits for Timothy to stand up before following him, the motion still not as fluid as it normally would be, though he at least doesn't grimace as he unbends.

Once up, he stands in place for a moment, glancing around the wreck that's been made of the room, and at the boy from time to time, still holding onto his hand. Then he recalls how Timothy can't ever take the lead on much of anything, so he steps back from between the couch and coffee table, drawing him along, and winding around to the kitchen, where he stretches up to reach down another bottle of wine. Because that's obviously a good idea.


Jackie: Now that it’s been determined, Tim wants nothing more than to go to that bed - not only because of its comfort, but maybe partially because it need to happen sooner rather than later - before either one of them can think it over for a third time and deem it a horrible idea. So once Leech agrees, Tim starts to scoot off of his lap, getting to his feet with not much grace because his body is a wreck and he’s still a little bit tipsy.

The detour in the kitchen is a little unexpected, and when Leech grabs for another bottle of wine, Tim momentarily feels a pang of fear - all too familiar with what happened the first time he got drunk with the parasite, and they wound up in his bedroom. But he sure as hell isn’t going to say anything, and instead grabs two fresh glasses from arm’s reach, and follows after the parasite as they head into the bedroom. Just as soon as they pass the doorway, Tim has to close his eyes, unable to look around at the space that is so dangerous familiar, and holds so many distinct memories. He just keeps his eyes down as they make their way further in.


Jay: Leech probably would not have bothered with glasses, so it's good that Timothy's around to keep him classy. He continues on into the bedroom, giving a brief look back as if feeling that hesitation, but he doesn't say anything about it. Leech has been spending a good portion of his time in bed lately, recovering from his shanking, and also just not having the motivation to leave it except when he must. This is reflected in the state of the room, and the bed in particular: it's covered with things, clothes mostly piled near the foot on the half of the bed he doesn't sleep on, there are also several manilla folders, his laptop, another overflowing ashtray and a little tin tray with joint-rolling supplies on it. With everything, it's surprising there's room for even Leech to curl up and sleep, but maybe he hasn't been doing much of that, either. Setting the wine bottle down, he releases Timothy's hand with a little regret, stacking the folders atop his computer and carrying them all over to set atop the metal cage in the corner, doing the same with the tray, but just shoving the clothes to the floor. He's a little glad to have something to do, feeling the same nostalgic pang as Timothy.


Jay: But eventually, the bed is more or less clear, and he has to return to the boy hovering uncertainly. Almost, he suggests that Timothy doesn't have to sleep here - if he wants to stay, he could stay on the couch, or in Kellen's room, or even the cage - but, at this point, it's pointless to pretend this isn't what he wants. So he takes the glasses from Timothy, setting them with the wine bottle. He doesn't immediately move onto the bed, but laces his fingers between Timothy's once more and draws him closer.


Jackie: Timothy only looks up when Leech parts from him, and then he’s able to take in the state of the bedroom. Granted, it was never the definition of cleanliness, but the disarray on the bed is foreign - and almost calming, because it certainly doesn’t look like there’s been much bedroom activity taking place on it. Drawing his eyes away from that, in an attempt to stop his mind from going down that path, Tim stays hovering with those glasses as Leech goes to clear the items away. He glances up at the older boy once he’s finished, and locks hesitant eyes with him as he comes closer and takes a hand. His first couple of steps that bring their bodies back together are a little stumbled, like he lost his footing once he entered the bedroom, but eventually he’s back to being intimately close to Leech, and naturally Tim’s head lowers.


Jackie: Rolling his lips together to prevent himself from saying anything dumb, or anything at all, Tim instead focuses back on their hands, curls his digits around to stroke them along Leech’s knuckles. Eventually, he draws his lower lip between his teeth and gnaws on it gently, watching as his other hand moves to pick at the hem of Leech’s shirt - clearly unsure of what else to do right now.


Jay: Equally uncertain, Leech watches Timothy's actions as the boy moves closer, lifting his free hand in something like mimicry of the boy's movements, though his palm rests more assuredly on his side, instead. Absurdly, he has to repress a sudden urge to smile. Clearing his throat quietly, he tilts his head to the side. "Lay down, Timothy." Even as he says it he hears the echo, remembering the first night they stayed at the apartment together when he said the same thing. This makes him realize that it came out as a command, so he adds on swiftly. "I mean, if ya want to."


Jackie: Standing there, Tim can feel his heartbeat speeding up, his pulse points heating up as his nerves take over. Now that they’re standing, Tim’s form is a little easier to look over, and the cuts on his inner arm are stark in contrast to his pale skin, dark red lines that are starting to heal, but are very obviously relatively new. For that sort-of command, Tim’s eyes flick up to Leech’s, then over to the bed, almost as if he had forgotten that that’s why they came in here in the first place. He nods again, since apparently he’s just never going to talk again, and releases Leech’s hand and shirt once he’s far enough away that he can’t hold on any longer. He climbs onto the bed, but doesn’t lay down quiet yet - rather, he sits at the foot of it and draws both legs up to his chest, wrapping an arm around his shins to keep them there while his other hand starts to rub at his face. He looks a little more nervous now, and maybe a little less sure of it all, but he doesn’t hesitate once he’s seated.


Jay: Leech also moves to sit on the bed, because lying down feels too much right now, so he stays relatively close to Timothy, legs crossed over each other. He almost finds some new way to busy himself, almost reaches for the wine, but he restrains himself and instead reaches for the boy's hands again, holding his own out expectantly. The silence isn't quite as uncomfortable as it could be, and Leech feels a little more confident of himself now, so he doesn't force any conversation, possibly pondering some way to put the kid at ease, or closer to it, though nothing really comes to mind immediately.


Jackie: Tim wasn’t expecting Leech to follow him right away, maybe thought the boy would pour them some wine, which would give Tim the time to regather himself because this room still smells the same as it did when he curled into this bed a few nights a week. He’s careful to try to mask any pain that may show in his features for the ongoing onslaught of memories that keep hitting him, and there’s maybe even a soft, gentle look of amusement when Leech holds out his hands expectantly. Reaching for them, Tim takes them and then draws them in closer, resting them a top of his lap and rubbing his thumbs along the other boy’s knuckles. “You should do your laundry.” This is said quietly, observantly, and totally unintentionally - obviously it was a thought in Tim’s head that somehow escaped, and once it’s out there, Tim feels incredibly dumb - enough so that he actually shakes his head at himself.


Jay: Leech inches forward when his hands are taken and pulled closer, not quite sure what to make of the way Timothy looks at him. At least it doesn't make him feel bad. At the unexpectedly practical words, Leech glances away, almost like he just now noticed the clothing. "Yeh...keep waitin' fer Kellen to fuck up so I can make him do it. He's usually pretty reliable that way." This might be true, but more likely, Leech just hasn't cared enough to wash any clothes, just wearing whatever seems least wrinkled. His gaze eventually drifts back to Timothy, and he narrows an eye in question. "Does it stink? I think I got some febreze around here." As if they're not at all paying attention to this pointless conversation, Leech's fingers tighten against the others, and tug gently to get the boy to move nearer.


Jackie: Tim makes a quiet little humming sound, sounding dubious as opposed to understanding - he hasn’t quite pegged Kellen as the folding-laundry type. Unlike himself, who is meticulous in his dorm room’s organization. He has a strange urge to clean up these items, but he knows it isn’t in his place, and he shakes his head for that question. “No…it’s fine. Just smells like you.” Which of course isn’t a complaint; in fact, it’s soothing - and maybe if circumstances were different, Timothy would tip over onto the bed and sprawl out like he was making a snow angel, soaking up the Leechie scent and enjoying it thoroughly. But as it is, he simply gives in to that hand tugging once again and scoots closer to Leech, readjusting his frame so his legs tuck under himself and he sits back on his haunches.


Jay: As if Leech could give a fuck about folding. He tilts his head consideringly at that answer, voice still light, casual, trying not to make the boy any more uncomfortable. "That jus' means I stink." His eyes drop when Timothy inches nearer, immediately registering his kneeling posture and feeling a visceral pleasure at it, though this doesn't show in his expression, at least. He knows more logically that it shouldn't please him, and that he shouldn't even notice it, much less dwell on it. So his eyes flick back to Timothy's face, while his hands turn over, letting his thumbs draw small circles on the hollow of the other's palms. "D'you want some more wine?"


Jackie: Tim exhales through his nose for that, a quick sign of amusement that is meant to dismiss those words - since Leech really doesn’t stink, he just smells familiar. He’s starting to relax more, shown in the way his shoulders slump a bit, and he opens up his hands as Leech toys with them, giving him a platform to draw those shapes on whilst still curling a few of his fingers up, pads brushing against Leech’s wrists. He knows that he probably shouldn’t have more wine, since that always seems dangerous, but what the hell else are they going to do here other than avoid looking each other in the eye too intently? He glances over at the bottle and then nods. “Yeah…sure.”


Jay: Leech shivers very slightly for the fingertips moving so softly over his wrists, but maybe it isn't too noticeable, and a moment later he has to draw away to go for the wine bottle. He does so reluctantly, dragging his own fingers across Timothy's palms, but he nods at the answer. Shifting, he moves his feet back to the floor, waiting until he's turned away from the boy to speak again. "Tell me something, while I get it open." Judging from the tone, he doesn't want a particular 'something', just anything; anything that Timothy feels like telling him. He diverts briefly back into the kitchen for the bottle opener, not quite such a lush yet that he keeps it by the bed, taking up his spot once more on his return and resting the bottle between his legs while he works the screw into the cork.


Jackie: Tim’s quite reluctant to let go of those hands as well, and leans forward slightly, even as Leech moves away, to prolong the connection - which thankfully doesn’t come across as too crazy. He turns around a bit to watch Leech leave, and is again floored with memories of laying in bed and watching Leech get ready for classes, half dressed and in search for clothing. For that memory, Tim’s eyes close, and he shifts back around to his original position, one free hand moving to rub at his face again. Luckily, he’s able to hide away any sign of pain once Leech returns, and he shifts on the bed to make more room, watching that bottle getting worked on. “Lars got some new tattoos that Duster did. He and Matt were at the shop, before coming over here.”
Leech focuses on the bottle mostly, working at the cork while he waits for Timothy to comply with his request (which, probably, didn't come across as much of a request). He does glance up, a hint of tightness at the corners of his mouth, because he would have preferred to hear something about Timothy, not his overbearing friend. "Yeh? I'm sure it looks good." He pauses to draw the cork free, setting it aside and waiting to pour, letting the wine 'breathe' - though he still doesn't understand what the hell that means.

"If ya don' mind though, I've had more'n enough of Lars fer today." It isn't just the sort-of confrontation Leech had with him; he's also a little irritated with the way the guy flirts with his brother, stringing him along, even though he'd never say it aloud, and surely Kellen doesn't mind at all. To soften the previous words, he goes on casually: "Who is this Matt dude? I know I've heard ya mention him, but I couldn' really place him."



Jackie: Shifting his weight, Tim moves to sit a little more comfortably on the bed, but by no means does he look more comfortable - he’s still all tight lines and strained muscles. He hums for the assurance that Lars’ new tattoos look good, since they were done by Duster there’s no way they’d really look :bad:, and the fresh ink on Lars’ knuckles looked good enough that it made Tim consider getting the same thing, someday.

Although he knows bringing Lars up was a bit of a duck and cover tactic, so he could avoid talking about himself, he still feels a bit embarrassed when Leech corrects him, and Tim can’t help but nod faintly and look down, thinking of something else to say. But the other boy provides a new topic, which makes talking so much easier to do, and he lets out a little breath of relief before speaking. “Oh…he’s an old friend of mine. I’ve known him since I was really little - before Jess, even. We played little league together.” And obviously Tim has stuck with it, although he hasn’t be able to train like he wants to these past few weeks.


Jay: Snagging the glasses off the bedside table, Leech fills one and offers it out to Timothy, a corner of his mouth tucking back a bit - maybe something like a smile. "'s nice, that you've got friends you've known so long." Not so Leech, but he doesn't think on that too much - he has Duster, and really, what more does a parasite need? He keeps his gaze down as he fills the second glass for himself, not overdoing it for either of them, because they're probably more than intoxicated enough. Setting the wine bottle aside after shoving the cork back in halfway, Leech rearranges himself to face the boy at the foot of the bed again. "We moved around too much fer me to get to know anyone well as a kid. I mean, we stayed in Boston all the time, but different neighborhoods..." He trails off, taking a sip of his wine.


Jackie: Taking that glass, Tim quickly takes a quick sip from it, just to quench his thirst, and then lowers it to rest atop one of his knees, holding onto the stem of it to keep it balanced. The immediate response to noting his long friendships is that they’re long distance, that maybe they wouldn’t be so long lasting if Tim wasn’t so far away. But rather than dwell on that, he simply shrugs a quick shoulder. “Matt’s a good guy. Protective, like Lars, but not…overbearing. Just keeps an eye on things a lot. He’s fiercely protective of Jess, though. Watches him like a hawk.” Not that Tim himself isn’t much different, but perhaps he hasn’t been as good about it as of late. Looking down at his glass, he thinks that over some and then lifts his eyes, watching the parasite speak - interested in the details that don’t get shared very often. “You like it here?”


Jay: Leech nods for the description of Matt, readjusting his position again - maybe for the purpose of getting closer to Timothy, although he doesn't make that too obvious. "Jesse's got more nursemaids than anyone's ever needed. But I guess there is somethin' about him that sorta...draws people in, makes 'em want to keep him safe." Even Leech himself has grown more than usually fond of the kid, and not purely for Kellen's or Timothy's sake. He shakes his head slightly to dismiss the topic, moving on. "Ahh...I guess. Don' really think about it much. Like it better than when I lived in Jersey, er that place in New York. It's mixed, like most places." Having been looking at his glass while he swirls the liquid inside of it, now he glances back up at the boy, one eye squinted curiously. "D'you like it?"


Jackie: This time, Tim’s humming much more pleased - totally agreeing with Leech’s assessment. Naturally, it’s something that has always drawn Timothy towards the younger boy - the way Jesse makes anyone and everyone feel important, and special, and completely necessary. That in and of itself is something to protect.

Lifting his glass, Tim takes another small drink from it, glancing back over at Leech but not allowing himself to stare too much. He’s maybe about to comment about his experience in Jersey, but the only time he’s been there is with Leech, and that just makes it more awkward. So he thinks about that question for a moment instead, and then shrugs a shoulder - clearly, not a big fan of this location, but he isn’t sure if there’s really anything better. “It’s cold.”


Jay: It's obvious even with Kellen, and the fact that he hasn't even attempted to get in Jesse's pants, which generally he does with all his friends. It's almost like he really believes Jesse's innocence is worth preserving. Leech snorts quietly for Timothy's terse response. "Right now it is, fer sure. Not in summer though, specially in the city. I remember sweltering through every August as a kid. I was always burnt bright pink." He considers that as he takes another drink of wine, then adds inanely: "'least my hair matches now." Realizing a little late how dumb that sounds, he blinks a few times, then draws in a deep breath. "Anyway, ya prolly wouldn't mind that, growing up where you did."


Jackie: “Was gonna say, your skin would’ve matched your current hair…” But obviously Leech beat him to that. It’s strange to think of the other boy as anything other than the older, more dominate figure that he is now; it’s even stranger to think of him as a kid, doing the same shit Jesse and Kellen do when they’re bored. Another drink, and then Tim lifts up his free hand to wipe a few knuckles along his mouth, cleaning up any excess wine. “It’s just…on the extremes here. Really hot, or really cold. It’s pretty neutral in California. Predictable.”


Jay: At Kellen's age, Leech was actually doing much worse shit when he was bored, but that's not something to bring up right now. Nodding agreement or understanding for Timothy's latter statements, Leech starts to respond, but has to stop himself before he even gets a word out to cover a yawn with the back of his hand. Afterwards, he loses the track of the conversation for a moment, then decides just not to try finding it. "Jefe's arready talking about some trip he wants to organize after break. The guy doesn' know when to quit." Absently, the parasite rubs at the corner of an eye, clearing away a bit of moisture that leaked out with the yawn, and in the process smudging the faint line of dark eyeliner he has on - probably having purposely tried to look more young and unreliable, in honor of the parents visiting today.


Jackie: Tim may take the opportunity of Leech yawning to look at him without it being obvious, but he forces himself to look away once Leech is finished. And since they are contagious, Tim starts to yawn as well, but he just turns his head and tips it down to hide it into his own shoulder. The mention of another trip just sounds exhausting at this point, but it’s of no surprise - especially with the weather warming up, Jefe comes up with all sorts of stupid fucking ideas. Still, he’s curious: “Any idea where?”


Jay: Leech shakes his head as he takes another drink, leaving the wine glass only about half full. "He's not decided yet. Mentioned camping, er maybe some sorta farm or ranch...fuck knows." It will be more trouble than it's worth, whatever he decides, Leech is sure of that much. The yawn made the parasite realize how tired he is, how long he's been awake and active on only a few hours of sleep, and he starts to slump a little, gradually sinking towards the pillows. "Were you here when he made us go to that Amish village fer a week?"


Jackie: Almost immediately, Tim wrinkles his nose, because both of those options sound like a lot of work. It’s bad enough going on these trips with the entire school - but when they combine the outdoors, and physical strength, it’s more exhausting than having to listen to Snider conduct prayer groups. Taking a bigger gulp from his wine, Tim licks his lips afterwards and then snorts, nodding briefly for the memory. “Yeah…that was my first year. Lars still doesn’t believe it actually happened, after the stories I told him."


Jay: Unbidden, Leech's gaze drops to watch that tongue dart briefly out and slide over those lips, but he forces himself to look away as soon as he realizes what he's doing, glancing back up to the boy's eye. Again, the corner of his mouth tucks back in something like a smirk. "No? I'm sure there's pictures somewhere, if ya need evidence." Tilting the wine glass up, he sets it aside. "Shit, I jus' wish I could forget it. Bad enough to be trapped with all those freaks, but they wouldn' let me shave all week." Clearly a problem for someone like Leech. Forcing himself into movement, he rolls to his feet - regretting the movement halfway through when it pulls at his stitches - then ambles into the kitchen again, collecting another two bottles of water. They'll surely be needed after the wine. When he returns, he tosses one onto the bed near Timothy, leaving his own on the bedside table, but he hesitates to return to the bed. Instead he nudges around the clothing on the floor until finding a pair of jammie pants, and starting towards the bathroom to change. Pausing on the way, he looks at Timothy uncertainly. "D'ya need something to sleep in? I think there's some of Kellen's clothes here that're actually clean."


Jackie: Those words nearly make Tim’s mouth crook up, because it really was an absolutely horrendous trip - from the farm house that they crammed into, to the field work they had to complete at all hours of the day, Tim isn’t entirely convinced that the operation was legal. “Milking cows at four in the morning wasn’t exactly the greatest experience, either.” Probably not as bad as Leech not being able to shave, but it was pretty tormenting, regardless. Trekking the other boy’s movements as he gets up, Tim starts to shift around like maybe he should follow, but it isn’t requested and he can hear the boy’s movements, so instead Tim just slides to the edge of the bed, puts his wine glass down near the parasite’s, and works his shoes off, piling them neatly near a bed post. He’s working the second shoe off when Leech returns, and he pauses all actions because those eyes are on him. He nods, but it’s hesitant, before speaking - maybe to try to appear more at ease. “Yeah, if he won’t mind."


Jay: Leech gives a minute shrug of dismissal. "Nah, he won't even notice." Throwing the pants over his shoulder, Leech crosses to the small chest of drawers near the closet, which only really contains Kellen clothes; the other drawers are taken up by various things of Leech's, since his clothes mostly end up on the bed or the floor. He finds another pair of jammie pants and a washed-soft t-shirt. He passes them off to Timothy as he moves to the bathroom, where he switches his own pants - not bothering with the shirt, since he's only wearing a wifebeater anyway - and then goes about washing his face and brushing his teeth and other bedtime things, probably taking advantage of the brief break from Timothy to try to clear his mind somewhat and calm down.

It only works marginally, though when he returns to the bedroom, he seems as placid as usual. This time he draws the comforter down before taking his place near the pillows, but since the silence feels a little heavier - no doubt due to the fact that he's about to crawl into a shared bed with Timothy - he hunts through the mess on the bedside table to find the stereo remote, turning it on low.


Jackie: Tim only nods, slipping the rest of the way off of the bed and taking a few steps towards Leech, catching the offered clothing once it’s tossed. This all seems more than weird - it nearly feels wrong - that Leech is going into another room to change, and Tim himself doesn’t feel right undressing around the other boy. But he chalks this all over to his list of Things I Need To Get Used To, and leaves it at that.

While the other boy is in the bathroom, Tim changes out of his stiff clothing and into the more relaxed pajama bottoms and t-shirt; the pants are a little big, since Kellen is lengthy, but the shirt is a little bit more snug - or at least more snug than the shirts he normally wears. Making his way back to the bed, he knees his way onto it and reaches for his wine, looking back over at the parasite as he enters but quickly looking away, since he’s starting to feel nervous for whatever reason he isn’t willing to think about too much. He remains in that position even as Leech gets more comfortable, drops his gaze to look down at his hands as the music starts to play - having no idea what to say, or if he should say anything.


Jay: Leech nudges the blanket down a bit more with his feet, but then he has nothing else to busy himself with and has to look back at Timothy. It's plain that the boy is even more uncomfortable and nervous than previously, and while Leech can't blame him, he intends to prevent it as well as he can - aside from which, having him down there at the end of the bed is far to indicative of submission. So Leech sits up far enough to curl his fingers around one of Timothy's arms, drawing him up towards the head of the bed gently as he leans back himself. "Jus' try to relax, Timothy." He's aware he's giving advice that he can't entirely follow himself, but he sounds genuine anyway. "Ya look exhausted."


Jackie: There’s a very strong urge for Tim to immediately crawl up the bed and curl up next to Leech; the familiarity there would surely bring him comfort, should he be able to shake away the nervousness that precludes it. But still, he remains cemented at the foot of the bed until Leech reaches for him and guides him up. The touch alone feels sharp, and Tim’s skin prickles, but he eventually makes his way up the mattress, not yet settling down - instead, he’s kneeling near the pillows, one hand distractedly running along the smooth fabric of one of them. He glances up at the boy for those words, and notes just how tired he looks, as well. “So do you.”


Jay: Since the kid is so uneasy, Leech releases his arm once he's moved up, not sure whether his touch is more likely to increase the awkwardness or not. So he draws the blankets back more, leaving Timothy plenty of space to crawl beneath them without getting too close to the parasite. Then he stretches out, sinking onto the pillows gratefully, affirming Timothy's words. "Yeh, I am. Haven' been sleepin' so good lately." He sounds pretty casual about it, not like he blames Timothy for his insomnia - and it isn't the kid's fault, not entirely; there's plenty of other things keeping Leech from relaxing, too. He pulls the blanket up to his waist and reaches over to flick the lamp off, leaving the stereo lights the only illumination in the room, though they're bright enough. Watching the boy fidget, making now move to get comfortable, Leech sighs silently through his nose, half tempted to grab him and drag him into a supine position forcibly - but he refrains, because that's not really his right anymore.


Jackie: As the parasite gets more comfortable on the bed, or at least attempts to, Tim’s eyes rack over the space offered to him before he eventually shifts around to get horizontal. Even the sheets still smell the same. And for that realization, Tim forces his eyes shut for a moment, trying to instead find comfort in that scent, rather than longing. “Yeh…me either.” It’s a little obvious that post break up, both boys are worse for wear, and the fact that they’re taking the hit just as hard as the other is equally understandable, and hopeless.

Squirming onto his side to face Leech, but still with a foot of space between them, Tim’s arm ducks under a pillow, and is met with something cool to the touch and hard. Eyebrows furrowing, Tim grabs the item and pulls it out, holding it up somewhat between the two of them. It’s his old collar, but it takes a second for him to realize it. He blinks a few times, but then the realization of what it is comes knocking, and Tim’s eyes widen a bit as his fingers fumble and drop the leather piece. “…oh.”


Jay: Leech hums in understanding; Timothy always did have trouble sleeping alone, and though he presumably had someone to sleep with even when he left Leech, that person too soon made himself incapable of offering much comfort. "Why don' you sleep with Jesse?" He doesn't really think as he speaks, in the process of digging a cigarette out of the pack, but he doesn't really regret the words. "I bet he wouldn' hardly notice ya there, kid sleeps like the dead."

Getting the cigarette lit, Leech slides lower down the bed comfortably, setting the ashtray on his stomach and closing his eyes. He keeps them closed as he feels Timothy shifting around, thinking the boy might be able to get comfortable sooner if Leech isn't looking at him; therefore, he's not alerted to anything unusual until that startled interjection. Lifting his eyelids partially, Leech turns to look at him in question but he doesn't need it answered - the glint off the collar's metal ring draws the eye, and his own widen at the sight of it. "Ahh." Leech isn't one to blush, and looks relatively unruffled by usual standards, but the way his teeth clench and he swallows harshly is probably visible. He isn't sure what to say, so he stays silent, but he feels reluctant to pick up the leather - like if he does so, it's admitting that he knew it was there, like if Timothy sees him holding it he'll immediately be able to see all the nights that Leech lays here sleepless running the leather between his fingers.


Jackie: “‘cause we both have to be in our own rooms. Dorm checks.” This is said almost immediately after Leech asks him, as if Tim had already considered it (he certainly has), and has accepted that it just isn’t possible. Not with the tight watch he’s had every since he escaped school grounds with Michael.

The realization of what he found buried under a pillow is overcoming Timothy like a thick fog; at first it was shock, and right now it’s pure discomfort, but there’s also an approaching feeling of jealousy and hurt, because clearly that collar wasn’t just for him. Still, for right now he’s more startled than anything, and he stumbles over his words. “I…ummm—“ He can’t form sentences, not with the tag on that collar flickering from the stereo lights, so he reaches his hand out and pushes the piece over towards Leech, like he’s the one that should be taking care of it. “Didn’t mean to.”


Jay: Leech probably would have suggested a way around that difficulty, but for the inconvenient discovery Timothy made just after responding. He can't seem to look away from the thing himself, now gnawing on the inside of his cheek again, but when the boy speaks his gaze finally wrenches away, looking at his face intently, trying to discern the expression on it. He can't do better than to see that Timothy is upset, but that doesn't tell him very much. Taking a deep breath, he hesitant takes up the length of leather when it's shoved his way. But he doesn't set it aside. He loops it between two fingers of his right hand, then weaves it around a third, playing the thing between them fluidly, the way he has many times before. His eyes lower to watch it move, but he can still think of nothing to say, just takes an extra-long drag from his cigarette.


Jackie: It’s a weird mixture of feeling grateful that Leech takes the collar back, and angry - having thought that the collar was just for him, and almost wanting to snag it back so it wouldn’t be used by anyone else again. Whichever feeling takes over first, it doesn’t matter - Tim is able to release a sharp breath once the collar is away from him, and he even scoots back a little bit to put more space between himself and it, as if the leather is slick with poison. Then he shifts onto his back, facing the ceiling, and moves both hands to cover his face, either to hide the expression there, prevent one from forming, or just in an attempt to disappear.


Jay: Continuing to watch his fingers manipulate the leather for a long moment, Leech doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to what Timothy's doing with all his movement, over there. But eventually, he thinks he can speak without giving himself away too much, and indeed his voice is fairly steady as he suddenly holds out that hand, the collar still twisted around the fingers, towards the boy. "Here. Ya should keep it." He's not sure why he thinks so, exactly -Timothy did pick it out, but it's more that Leech thinks that he, himself, shouldn't have it. Belatedly noticing Timothy's tense position, his eyes narrow, and he shifts cautiously onto his side, incidentally moving closer to the boy in the process. He's sure that the discovery is what's distressed Tim, but he can't really apologize for it, so he merely watches him with concern and chews at his inner cheek, that one hand still stretched towards the boy but resting against the mattress between them now.


Jackie: The parasite’s suggestion comes as a complete shock to Timothy, but he doesn’t let that show - he even holds back the scoff that barrels up in his throat, threatening to escape. But he does immediately shake his head, still hiding behind his hands as he tries not to think about the people that Leech has had in this bed, under these sheets. It’s enough that he wants to get up, run out of the room and back to his own dorm, but he’s paralyzed from the sharp pain of realizing he just wants it to be him. From behind those hands, he muffles out - somehow able to not lace his words with anything bitter, and instead sounding sad. “No…you keep it. It shouldn’t go to waste.” Because certainly, if Tim took it, it probably wouldn’t get any use. Might as well keep it here, where it’s still seeing some activity.


Jay: For that reply, Leech's eyes narrow further - in confusion now, rather than concern. "But it..." Then, the full meaning of Timothy's words penetrates, and Leech's eyes widen again, a little bit anger and a little pain, but mostly surprise, and he speaks without thinking, his words more forceful, even sitting up halfway. "It's not getting used." The parasite sounds offended, almost scandalized by the thought, but he manages to choke back that mix of emotions and throttle his voice to a lower volume. The hand still tangled in the leather reaches for one of Timothy's wrists, trying to draw that hand away from his face. "It's yours, Timothy. I wouldn' use it on anyone else, even I ever got another slave...and I don't think I ever will." Not after his initial attempt became such a clusterfuck.


Jackie: “Then why is it—“ Tim doesn’t have the chance to finish that question, because Leech keeps talking and starts yanking on his arm, and the younger boy is much more focused on staying hidden than he is asking anything. He tries to resist that tugging, and puts up a little resistance to it, but he can’t keep it up for long and eventually Leech is able to draw one hand away from his face. To counter that, Tim shifts, trying to turn away from Leech while at the same time partially sitting up, because he probably can’t handle this right now. He never should’ve come into this room to begin with. “No, Leech. It’s yours - you owned it."


Jay: Apparently, Timothy is much more distressed than Leech realized. When the boy squirms away from him, he releases the arm he's holding, sitting back on his heels and watching him, totally bemused and a little hurt still, that Timothy could even imagine Leech would put his collar on another person. But since the kid is so upset, he bites back the first responses to come to mind, taking a couple of deep breaths, lowering his voice more, hoping the calm (even if it is semi-artificial) will rub off some. "Don't leave, Timothy. I'll keep it, if ya want, but I never thought of...it's not here, in case - it's not here fer that." He looks down at the source of contention, which he's still holding on to, for some reason, eyebrows contracting into a small scowl, surely directed at himself, voice growing smaller as he continues. "It's jus here cuz sometimes, when I can't sleep, it...helps." He closes his teeth with a snap on anything further, wouldn't have even said that much if it didn't seem necessary, to prevent the line of thinking the boy has taken.


Jackie: Able to get up into a sitting position, Tim turns his body so he’s not at all facing Leech, and he drops his hands to the mattress, like he’s getting ready to climb off of it. But that voice arrests him, and the words do, too, so he pauses to listen, and probably crumples a bit for what’s said. He doesn’t respond right away to Leech’s words, since he’s trying to process them, but he can’t - it doesn’t make sense that Leech would need that collar to help him sleep, to give him comfort. “Helps


Jackie:


Jackie: “Helps?” This is said quietly, like he doesn’t at all believe it, and once again Tim raises his hands up to his face and hides there, curling a little more into himself and feeling incredibly stupid for even being here in the first place. He doesn’t have the urge to cry, but he does feel completely and utterly drained. After a moment, he voices out loud: “What’re we doing?”


Jay: "Helps." Leech halfway bites the word out. still not willing to elucidate on his meaning, but he does lift his eyes for the tone that the boy uses. It's almost like the mock-innocent, suspicious tone he used to use when mentioning Malachi, or Darius, and that gets under Leech's skin some. The obvious distress in every line of Timothy's body only soothes it a little. That question gets a brief, breathy snort of mirthless laughter. "Somethin stupid." The words are muttered under his breath, mostly to himself, but Timothy might be near enough to hear them. Walking closer on his knees, Leech reaches out to put a hand lightly on either of those emaciated shoulders, not trying to draw Timothy back but suggesting it with their placement. "We're going to sleep." This is said more assuredly, a proper response to the question. "Yer exhausted, Timothy, that's half yer problem. 's no wonder yer so on edge. Lay down, I won't say another word if ya don' want me to, but try to relax again."


Jackie: Tim gives up, at least for now, in trying to understand how having this collar hanging out in his bed is helpful to the parasite, and instead is trying to relax his shoulders again, willing himself to not get so worked up. After all, it’s not like he has any reason to get worked up - not like he has any say in what Leech does in this bed. Not that he did before, but he at least felt more justified in any jealousy or ineptitude that would stem from those thoughts.

Hearing those other words, Tim can’t help but snort quietly, agreeing with them. Because it’s true: this is fucking idiotic, and they both know it. Yet here they are, in the same bed, trying to pretend that they can get away with it unscathed. The hand to his shoulder feels like a ton of bricks, and pairing it with those additional words, Tim feels every ounce of exhaustion coming back. He doesn’t make a move to get back into the bed more completely, but he also doesn’t get up to leave, so surely he’s still contemplating what he should be doing. “How does it help, Leech?”


Jay: His hands aren't shrugged away, like he was half expecting, so Leech leaves them there where he can feel the tension in the boy's body. He doesn't relax, exactly, but there is a sort of slump that proves the truth of the parasite's words, and Leech tries to be silently encouraging, thumbs skimming lightly back and forth over the knotted muscles while he crawls closer. Seated behind Timothy, though not close enough to be pressed against him, Leech sighs near-silently at that question, closing his eyes in defeat. "It helps me missin' you." The words are delivered in a flat, factual tone, but it might be worth noting that he doesn't say it helps him stop missing Timothy - if anything, it's an aid to memories, the ones that soothe a little bit more than they hurt, but only a little. He's torn, now, after that previous pointed question; what is he doing? Is he really thinking this will be any good for Timothy, or is that just an excuse for his selfishness? Should he not just let him leave, each of them to their separate sleepless beds? He can't force himself to the decision, so he pushes it away, grinding out in that low, rough voice: "I'm tired, Timothy."


Jackie: Feeling Leech crawling in closer, Tim stops breathing for a second, only letting out a breath once the older boy is settled, and thankfully - or regretfully - not too close to Timothy’s form. Initially, that answer confuses Tim, since it doesn’t include the word :stop:. He would have figured, the way things ended, that Leech would do everything in his power to forget about him, wipe away the memories since it all just ended up going to shit. But at the same time, it’s no different than the nights Tim spent in his own bed, tracing over the ‘L’ marking on his torso, playing and replaying the memory of its incision in his mind. It hurt to think about, but it for the brief moments when he forgot that he ruined it, it felt calming - and real. For that, Tim lowers his head, dropping his chin to his chest as he squeezes his eyes shut, warding any emotions from escaping him, right now.

Sitting in this bed, with those hands on his body, Tim feels the full weight of his exhaustion - and it very clearly matches that of Leech’s. “Me, too.”


Jay: Leech's nerves are already so stretched that he scarcely notices that the wait for Timothy to reply puts him more on edge, but when the boy answers, he exhales slowly, fingers curling more securely on those shoulders, gently drawing them back toward his own chest. "Let's play a game, then." He doesn't raise his voice, still showing the absolute truth of his previous statement in its gravelly deepness. "Let's pretend, fer now, that nothin' else exists. Nothin' outside this room, er in the past er the future. Just stay, and sleep. The rest of it can wait." Evidently this is his answer to those questions about his motives, as well. He doesn't really know what he's doing, whether it will make things worse...but he can wait to figure it out. "Arrite?"


Jackie: Staying still, so as not to disrupt Leech’s movements and discourage him from getting closer, Tim focuses on his breathing, which isn’t getting any more labored, but it feels harder to accomplish right now. He listens carefully to those words, to make sure he hears them all, and while the suggestion is a bit absurd, Tim so desperately wants to follow it. So he nods softly, agreeing, before very quietly voicing out: “Okay.” And then he starts to move, slowly shifting so they can crawl back into the bed and forget about the things they find under pillows or under t-shirts.


Jay: "Arrite." When he feels Timothy moving, Leech inches back as well, not releasing him, just giving him space to lie down. He starts to do so, himself, unfolding his legs and snaking them beneath the rumpled comforter again. However, he stays close, much closer than he was lying before Timothy found that collar; when the boy also lays back, Leech is only about half a foot from him, still turned to face the boy. He keeps one hand on the shoulder closest to him, but the other seeks out the ashtray, just to move it away so he doesn't accidentally roll onto it. Where before he was hesitant, now he doesn't let himself think about it, just drapes that arm loosely over Timothy's chest, ducking his head into the pillow, and for now he stays silent as he promised, letting the music fill the air instead.


Jackie: Working his way back towards the center of the bed, Tim eventually lays back down, still facing away from Leech, but not shying away from his touches - as light and careful as they are. He keeps his eyes corkscrewed shut, clearly not all that relaxed despite the comfortable bed and bed partner. Normally, this would be just the thing that would easily lull him to sleep, and enable him to sleep well beyond the early morning hours; he remembers a few days during break that he and Leech wouldn’t leave the bed until the afternoon. The memory of that comfort goes against Leech’s rules for the game, but Tim can’t help it, and before he can think better of anything, he whispers quietly: “Leech, will you just—“


Jay: Leech can feel that Timothy isn't relaxing, and tries to force himself to relax so maybe it will catch on, thumb still moving in slow circles against that shoulder. His eyes close, but they slit open again when Timothy starts to speak. "Yes." He might answer before the words even stop, but he doesn't take the agreement back, waiting a few seconds for the boy to finish, then picking his head up and prompting him gently: "Yeh, I will, but what is it?"


Jackie: Tim stops himself, questioning if he should even be asking anything from this boy, knowing that they’re just digging themselves deeper and deeper into a hole that isn’t anything like a game. Not bothering with tilting his head back, Tim squirms to get comfortable again, but it seems pointless - he won’t get comfortable until he’s secure. “Just…come here.”


Jay: Normally, that quick agreement might embarrass Leech, but right now he doesn't let it matter to him. It might make him hurt more, for a while, but then he'll have another soothing memory to run over when he's lying here alone. He leans in, closing the space between his chest and Timothy's back, lifting his chin over the boy's shoulder to speak more audibly. "Where, exactly?" He's lifting the arm wrapped around, prepared to readjust however he needs to, entirely too pleased with that indistinct request.


Jackie: As Leech leans in, Tim’s shoulders finally crack, and they appear to relax - if only minutely - while the parasite gets in closer. Tim isn’t entirely sure what his request was specifically looking for, beyond having this body as close to his own as possible, so he can’t provide any more detail than a simple “Here”, which is followed by Tim tugging on Leech’s wrist and forcing the boy to curl around him even more. Like that, Tim leans into the embrace, and sighs when he can feel a strong bicep pull up against his chest.


Jay: Giving a wordless noise of agreement, Leech obliges as well as he can. His knees draw up to tuck between the boy's, mirroring the line of his body with his own and replacing the arm over him more securely, fingers tucking beneath the opposite ribs. This close, he's shocked by just how skinny Timothy is, how much weight he's lost since the last time Leech was able to hold him this way, but it would only make him draw away to mention it. Instead, Leech presses the bridge of his nose against the back of a shoulder, his free hand splayed out over the boy's back, vertebrae like small rocks against his palm, knots of muscle nearly as hard. "Yer so tense, boy." This seems a safer thing to notice, though Leech might not have meant to add that term on - at least it's fairly innocuous, more so than some of the others that might have slipped out. His fingertips start to work against the muscles, small firm circles against the skin that don't seem to have any effect.


Jackie: Getting Leech to fill the nooks and crannies of his form is far more comforting than Timothy would have assumed, and as the older boy gets into positioning, there’s a more audible, pleased sigh for this feeling, like Tim can finally breathe again. Even more telling of the boy’s growing comfort is the way that he doesn’t react to that pet name, aside from shifting around a little more to draw the older boy in even further. “Can’t help it.” Which is probably true, and at least for a while, Tim wasn’t even trying to fix it. Now that Leech has an arm securely around Tim’s torso, the younger boy trails his hand down along that forearm before eventually finding his hand, where he then tries to lace a few of their fingers together, like he’s making sure that grip won’t lessen or go away.


Jay: Leech hums, because he wasn't exactly asking for Timothy to defend the tension, just making an observation, and he keeps those fingers working over the muscles, slowly drawing the hand down farther. His fingers wind between Timothy's with almost shameful alacrity, the collar having been lost somewhere along the way, and he squeezes the others in reassurance. For a moment, the urge to bite down on the shoulder in front of his face is almost unbearable, or just to have his mouth on that body somewhere, but he fights it back with difficulty - he knows where such an action will take them and he has no real desire to engage in sex that would inevitably be sadly nostalgic, regretted even before it was over with. Instead he bites into his own lower lip, absently humming along with the song playing in a cracked but harmonic way, fingertips digging into the stiff muscles to either side of that prominent spine.


Jackie: If there’s one thing that has been the most reassuring to Timothy this entire night, it’s when Leech so quickly clutches his fingers back, squeezing them and not letting go despite their tangled limbs and meshing forms. That connection keeps Timothy grounded, and he squeezes that hand back and keeps his grip tight, a clear display of how much he needs it, right now. With the older boy so close, Tim can breathe him in, that distinct smell of cigarettes and wine and something else that he’s never been able to figure out, nor dared to ask. It’s nearly too much, and Tim tilts his head down into the pillow, trying to hide it until he can will himself to not spiral out of control. But before he can get to that, he mutters out helplessly - in a quiet, pained voice: “I miss you.”


Jay: Finally the urge becomes less, and Leech is able to stop chewing on himself, letting his head sink into the pillows further - though his face still stays close, cheek against the back of a shoulderblade. He can feel the tension and weight in those strained words, feel an answering heaviness in his own chest, and has to take a deep breath to keep it from overcoming him. Keeping his voice pitched low and, hopefully, soothing, he lifts his chin to reply where the boy can hear him. "Ya don't have to, Timothy. Not right now." His fingers are still twined with those others, but his thumb is able to pet softly over his side, while he turns his face towards Timothy's form more, nuzzling at the nape of his neck. His next words come without thought on a sigh of something like relief. "Feels good, to be close again."


Jackie: “I do, Leech. I do.” Maybe Leech’s words were comforting, but they still don’t work enough to completely wipe away the fact that Tim has missed him - not just tonight, but since the first night they parted. He silences himself by rolling his lips together, not allowing his mouth to part because it gives him too much clearance to talk. Bringing his bent legs closer towards his body, it appears like Timothy is trying to disappear, or at least make himself small enough that he can be overlooked, eventually lost. But so long as Leech is holding onto him, he knows that that won’t be entirely possible, so he just nods for those words and tries not to let them hurt too much.


Jay: Those words make it clear that Leech didn't succeed in being soothing at all, and he grits his teeth momentarily to keep from offering other reassurances, ones that would cause more harm than good, in the long run. As he feels Timothy drawing into himself more, he makes a quiet noise of displeasure, not at all wanting the boy to return to his more panicky state. So he slips his hand, still locked with Timothy's, beneath his side again, while the opposite withdraws to a shoulder to assist in guiding that body as Leech coaxes it to turn to face him, instead. It takes a little work, but eventually the kid is more or less turned to the opposite side, and Leech closes in once more. His free hand - the other has yet to release Timothy's - slides under his ribs to circle around his back and hold him close, and Leech brings his head to rest against the uppermost shoulder, leaving a space between his neck and the pillow for Timothy to burrow. Incapable of offering any promises that the boy won't have to miss him again, he does his best to be comforting with his form instead, and finally murmurs quietly once they've stopped shifting around: "I miss you, too, Timothy."


Jackie: Tim is reluctant to turn around, doesn’t want to show himself to Leech because he’s beyond pathetic at the moment - especially since his words aren’t returned, not that he thought they would be. But since this coaxing is gentle and slow, he gives into it, following Leech’s gestures rather than completing them on his own. Once facing the other boy, Tim finally moves on his own, and squirms closer until he can fit his face down into the crook of that familiar neck, pressing into its warmth and breathing him in. From there, there’s a specific feeling of longing - no doubt spurred on by memories of nights spent falling asleep here, feeling the boy’s heart beat in the nearby pulse point and kissing it in his sleep - and Tim raises a hand to gently grab onto the front of Leech’s wife beater. He holds onto the material tightly, and squeezes his eyes shut when the familiar stinging behind his lashes comes around. A few tears escape, but they melt into Leech’s skin, contrasting to its warmth.


Jay: Pleased that Timothy follows the movements rather than trying to pull away and freak out again, Leech just pretends not to notice those tears against his skin, obligingly squirming closer when his shirt is tugged on. The parasite moves partially onto his back, drawing the other form along with his, an action so instinctively familiar that it's done without any thought. As it's difficult to think of anything more to say, particularly anything that won't make this situation more potentially painful, Leech keeps silent after that little admission, instead going back to humming along with the slow, bluesy music under his breath while that free hand slides repetitively from the nape of Timothy's neck to the back of his hips (forbearing to continue all the way to his tailbone, as he's more accustomed to). The opposite hand is still entwined with the boy's, both clasped between his chest and Timothy's.


Jackie: Even as they roll, Tim doesn’t lift up from his secured hiding spot, but he does rework himself and nuzzle in closer once they’re resettled. This position is one Tim had gotten quite accustomed to, spending many nights falling asleep like this and waking up with those warm arms around him. And as much as it stings, it feels just as good to be like this, and eventually he’s able to calm his breathing, then his heart beat, and finally his thoughts - enough so that he drifts off to sleep, still desperately clutching to the other boy. When Leech’s cell phone starts chirping from the bedside table, Tim doesn’t stir, a clear indication of his extreme exhaustion.


Jay: Leech doesn't fall asleep quite so easily, but he does drift off into some halfway state, eventually falling deep enough into it to stop petting at the boy and unconsciously move completely onto his back, still keeping Timothy tucked close against his side. Naturally, it's not half an hour later when his phone goes off. He doesn't get the initial panic that people calling in the middle of the night brings, mainly because the generic ringtone tells him it's not Kellen, or Duster, or anyone he really cares about, who all have their own rings. Taking a deep, disgruntled breath as he wakes, he finally releases Timothy's hand to reach that phone off the table by his bed - the opposite arm being trapped under the boy's body and mostly numb.

"Yeh." His voice is absurdly rough from emotion and exhaustion and low, to try to keep from waking the boy, but the man who returns the somewhat-greeting has a thick Scots brogue, so they're mutually incomprehensible. Leech is just glad it's not Snider. "What? Ah...yeh, I passed out. Long day." He listens for a moment, eyes heavily lidded, though he does wake up more when Timothy's mentioned. "Armstrong? Ah, 's right; he's in isolation. I ferget to put a notice up?...Well, like I said...Nah, he didn' do anything, jus needed some solitude. Long day fer him too, I guess." And since, by now, all the staff is aware of Timothy's unique case, this passes without question.


Jackie: Despite the parasite’s movements, Tim doesn’t actually wake, and unconsciously, he moves the hand that was clutching Leech’s and stretches that arm out across the boy’s chest, gently grabbing at his ribs. With this better grip, he squirms in closer, nuzzling into that neck and only making a quiet noise when Leech starts talking - the first sign that he’s no longer soundly asleep. He doesn’t wake fully, nor instantly, but the mention of his last name does catch his attention more, so he listens a little more intently and starts to pull back, perhaps feeling like he may have forced Leech into this close proximity rather than the boy actually needing, or enjoying it. He waits for the phone call to end before speaking: “Everything all right?”


Jay: Leech feels Timothy start to stir more as he continues talking to Dr. Harper, and when he feels him drawing back, instinctively tightens the numbed arm that's still around him, listening to Harper go on for a moment. "Nobody else missin? Arrite...yeh, thanks, man." Thumbing the phone off even as the science teacher is offering whatever strange Gaelic parting words he has, Leech sideglances at Timothy and nods, still apparently lazy, or at least intent on returning to that state. "Yeh. Jus' I fergot to do dorm checks at midnight. Harper did the later round an' noticed ya gone. Thank fuck he's got the sense to call me before callin' in the cavalry." Said cavalry might be a little more suspicious of Leech's thin excuses, but the Scot is one of the few staff members Leech actually gets along with, particularly since he sewed the parasite back together.


Jackie: Feeling the pressure from that numbed out arm, Tim stops drawing away from that body, but he also doesn’t retreat back into it with such abandon. He doesn’t lift his eyes to look at the parasite’s face, instead just focuses on some of the tattoos inked near an exposed collarbone, tracing their outlines despite having them pretty well memorized. Humming for that information, and perhaps feeling a little ashamed that he’s down here - not in isolation like maybe he should be, but in this bed - Tim rolls his lips together, talking quietly. “Should I go?”


Jay: Maybe too tired to be as gentle as he was previously, Leech snorts at that question, remembering this all too well - Timothy always unsure of himself, if he's wanted or allowed. "No, you should stay." The parasite says this very decidedly, also too tired to pretend that he's doing this merely for the boy's benefit - that he's keeping him around just so he can get some sleep. The commanding tone feels so accustomed that Leech doesn't even notice it. Having shifting downward while he was drifting, he drives a heel into the mattress and inches back up to rest his head on the pillow, again tightening the arm about Timothy to make sure he comes along. "'s only about two thirty, mebbe three. You can't have been asleep fer very long."


Jackie: At first, that snort causes a stabbing pain to come across Tim’s insides, and he momentarily freezes, as if ready to hop off the bed and stop disturbing the other boy’s night - because surely he’s done that enough. But the solid answer, the stern tone, and the tightening arm are all indicators that he shouldn’t be going anywhere, and Tim’s muscles dissolve some. The commanding tone doesn’t just keep him in place; it also forces Timothy’s eyes to shut gently, and he nods faintly, unknowingly grateful for the instruction and the way it makes him feel like he belongs here, at least for right now. He settles his head back down onto Leech’s shoulder and squirms back into place, keeping his voice quiet - barely heard above the bluesy music that’s still playing. “You, either.” Probably, he’s unaware that Leech didn’t sleep at all.


Jay: Appeased when Timothy settles against him without further argument, Leech slightly loosens his hold, but only so he can lightly trail his fingertips up and down the side of that pronounced ribcage - he's tired, and kind of inebriated still, and unbelievably comfortable, so he doesn't think whether he should be doing these affectionate things. He just does them. Free hand hunting blindly over the table for a cigarette, and knocking a few unimportant things off of it in the process, Leech shakes his head for those quiet words. "No, not long." Not at all, really, but he doesn't say that. Finally finding the pack of cigarettes, he draws one from it with his teeth and uses the lighter that was stacked next to the box to light it, then sets them aside.


Jackie: He doesn’t bring it to light, but Timothy appreciates the affection regardless, can almost pretend that it isn’t due to shitty circumstances and just :is:. So he doesn’t shy away from the touches, and indeed starts some of his own; curling and uncurling his fingers against Leech’s collarbone. He tries to bite back a yawn, and is at least partially successful, but his words get caught up with it regardless. “You should get some sleep.” And then Timothy could try again, and they can stay wrapped up in each other until a time finally comes that they can’t anymore. As Leech shifts, their bodies move gently, and the hand that is grazing along Leech’s chest slips to the mattress, and refinds the collar that caused a bit of a stir earlier. Tim doesn’t pick it up, but he does pull it out to the more open mattress space, tiredly looking over at it as it’s now near Leech’s shoulders and the pillows.


Jay: Not bothering to find a clear space on the table, Leech instead just sets the pack and lighter aside near the edge of the bed, eyelids dropping mostly closed now that that's accomplished. He makes a humming noise of agreement for Timothy's suggestion, taking a second to exhale smoke before responding verbally. "I will." But probably not until Timothy falls asleep, himself, because Leech still has that ingrained paranoia that doesn't allow him to sleep around other people - for a while, Timothy was one of the few exceptions around whom he could sleep peacefully, but apparently that's over now. Luckily, he doesn't think on that, just doing his best to regain the relaxed almost-asleep state he was in before that phone call. His thin fingers trace down the boy's side thoughtlessly again, drawing a bit farther to smooth over his nearly concave stomach before reversing, apparently unaware of Timothy's inspection of that collar.


Jackie: Timothy probably doesn’t believe those words, but he won’t argue against them, knows that any sort of disagreement won’t get them anywhere. So he just nods gently against Leech’s shoulder and narrows his eyes on the collar, focusing on the small metal tag. He edges it between two fingers and tips it back and forth to allow the stereo’s lights to catch onto it, but he can’t make it out too clearly. Dragging the collar near him, and thusly atop Leech’s chest, Tim’s able to see the tag more clearly, and the ‘Master’ engraving etched into it. There’s a moment of panic, of realization and fear and then, like a dark cloud, incredible sadness that makes the boy maneuver his head so he can hide it in the space between Leech’s bicep and chest. At the same time, he releases the collar, leaving it on Leech’s chest.


Jay: Leech is doing fairly well at returning to a catatonic if not comatose state, silently smoking his cigarette and following the progressions of the music, until he feels Timothy's hand drag over his chest with that weight. Lifting his head somewhat awkwardly, he looks down and recognizes the collar immediately, feeling a faint irritation that Timothy's back to that. But then he notices the way the kid is maneuvering the tag, and his stomach drops and suddenly he's a lot more awake. He'd almost forgotten that he'd attached the tag there until now.

It's obvious, the moment when Timothy discerns the word on that little piece of metal, the tag he gave to Leech to match his own, and Leech bites back a groan - not sure if he's more distressed at giving away his pathetic desperation and loneliness, or at the inevitable guilt it will make Timothy feel. He shifts the collar off of his chest with one hand like he's sweeping it under the rug and turns slightly to face the boy, right arm once more tightening comfortingly around his back, yet again lost for words.


Jackie: For what may be the hundredth time he’s thought of it tonight, Tim wonders if being down here isn’t only right - that it’s actually a good thing, not detrimental. It’s becoming harder and harder to convince himself to stay, but the secured arm around him keeps him in place, at least for right now. Taking a few calculated breaths, he works to keep the panic away, the arm that was outstretched and holding the collar coming back to in between their forms and covering his face once more. It’s a nearly a minute before he attempts to speak, and even then, it takes a few tries. “Why’d you put that there?”


Jay: Leech sighs quietly at the boy's obvious distress, although somewhere deep inside the meaner part of him notes that it's a little much, for Timothy to be so upset, when Leech is the one that got screwed over. But the parasite doesn't pay that little voice (which, probably, sounds more than a bit like Ruckus) any heed, instead lifting his left hand to stroke Timothy's scalp, careful to keep the lit cigarette well away from his head. The question makes him tense minutely, but it doesn't last, because there's no point in trying to hide anything now. He answers simply. "'cuz it's yours. Like the collar." And he didn't particularly want to keep it on the cuffs he still sometimes wears; dwelling on that part of the past is not a daylight activity.


Jackie: It’s easier for Timothy to talk like this, head ducked down and hidden from view, and if it were at all possible, he’d maybe want to duck his entire body into this crevice and stay hidden for a good long while. The fingers along his scalp feel distant, but still work to help keep him calm, and the hand covering his face drops down to once again reach out and grip the fabric of Leech’s thin wife beater. “…so why’d you keep them?” It’s still strange to Tim that the parasite would even want those items in his apartment, much less his bedroom. He would have figured they’d be in a fireplace, or some dumpster in the city far, far away.


Jay: That question hits him a little harder, going right up against Leech's instincts for keeping his emotions battened down securely and never burdening anyone else with them, except healthy emotions like anger or seething hatred, of course. The parasite imbeds his teeth in the soft skin inside his cheek, the smooth motion of fingertips over those short hairs stuttering, and he has to close his eyes. Luckily, with Timothy tucked away, he can't see the pain that crosses that inexpressive face. It takes a moment, and a rough swallow, for Leech to be able to answer, and even then his voice wavers shamefully on the terse words. "Because...they're yours."


Jackie: If Tim was expecting any sort of answer - and it’s questionable if he was even able to do so - it certainly wouldn’t have been the one given, the words nor the tone they’re said in. That explanation does nothing to help Tim understand why that collar is here, but he doesn’t want to question it more - doesn’t want to pester Leech when it’s obvious the boy doesn’t have much to say, or doesn’t want to offer it. He does want to express his confusion, tell the boy he doesn’t understand, but something holds him back from doing so. Instead, he gives a very hesitant nod, remaining where he is tucked up against Leech.


Jay: It might be less that he doesn't want to offer it, than that he doesn't want his voice giving away his emotional state any more than it already has. He shifts slightly, lifting his chin to rest atop Timothy's head and curling more completely against that huddled form, for his own sake as much as the boy's. He takes in a few drags of his cigarette to try to steady himself, not feeling strong enough to avoid breaking if he doesn't head it off early. Finally he feels like he can give a more comprehensive answer - Timothy's belated nod and his silence plainly expressing that lingering confusion, to one who knows how to read him - but he keeps his voice pitched low and flat while he speaks. "I just...keep things. Like, Scrap's cage...or Lorena's robe. It helps me remember." As scanty as the words are, it's more than he feels really comfortable giving away, so he returns the cigarette to his mouth and draws on it harshly.


Jackie: Much like how he wasn’t expecting an answer, Tim surely wasn’t expecting a further explanation. So when this one comes, he pauses his breathing, listening intently, which he partly regrets, because it just makes him feel even worse, more guilty and apologetic and regretful. He doesn’t lift his head as he speaks, and despite his efforts to not have a his whispered voice sound shattered, it cracks lightly towards the end. “I never meant to be someone you’d have to end up remembering.” He’d much rather just be there, right up front.


Jay: Leech's eyes narrow when Timothy speaks, because this is just unreasonable; the kid should not be able to say things that cut him so deep, so easily. "Well...'s better than forgetting." Though nothing like as wrecked sounding as Timothy's voice, that comes out more uneven again and Leech swallows heavily to keep his throat from closing up, squints his eyes shut to keep the hot prickling there from manifesting into anything else, tightens the arm around the boy to keep him from leaning away and looking up at his vulnerability. It takes a moment to regain any precarious composure, and he knows it can't take much more of a beating, so he tilts his head down to brush his mouth over the crown of Timothy's head, murmuring almost desperately against his scalp. "Please stop, Timothy." That, at least, comes out evenly - but probably only because it's barely loud enough to qualify as a whisper.


Jackie: Reading the signals all wrong, Timothy takes these actions as Leech’s way of keeping him from skittering away, becoming a crying mess of a person like he did earlier. But that uneven voice breaks him, and instead of trying to look up at his face, Tim burrows in deeper, tries to press all of his forgiveness into the other boy by touch alone. Unable to stop his burning eyes from tearing up (another contrast to Leech’s ability to keep everything blank), Tim tries to at least not let the tears soak into Leech’s shirt and penetrate his skin, but he’s not perfectly able to do so - there’s a chance that Leech can feel these new tears, but they’d be easy to brush past, too. That apology feels like a dagger to Timothy’s chest, and he actually shivers for it, curling into himself and Leech’s embrace slightly. He attempts to say he’s sorry, but no noise comes out - and he thinks better of it, anyways, and shuts his mouth. Instead, he moves the hand gripping Leech’s wife beater up, and instead now grips at the material just over the boy’s heart.


Jay: Well, it's probably at least a little bit that he wants to keep the boy close, too. Inexpressibly grateful when Timothy follows that request (definitely not a command, this time) and stays silent, Leech finishes his cigarette with a few more deep draws and reaches blindly behind himself to stub it in the ashtray. He does feel those tears, a little late perhaps, and is unexpectedly glad of them; knowing that Timothy is breaking down allows the parasite to take a comforting role, which probably steadies him more than anything else could. Curling closer, the now smoke-free left hand cups the nape of Timothy's neck where he's so prone to rub and lightly massages the muscles, while the other returns to smoothing over his back, making a soothing shushing noise.


Jackie: This time around, Tim’s tears don’t amount to the boy completely breaking down, although the temptation is there; if he was alone in his room, he’d curl up in his own bed and sob himself to sleep, or be completely numbed to the world and lay there motion and emotionless. Perhaps it’s why he’s so prone to these mini breakdowns this evening; making up for lost time and emotions. He shakes his head briefly, partly to rid himself of the feeling that has recently taken over, but mostly to let Leech know that he’s taking care of it - that he’s not gonna let himself spiral again. Once composed, Tim forces himself up the bed some, out of that crevice and back into the nook of Leech’s neck, pressing his nose to the boy’s pulse point and lifting his hand further up to the back of the boy’s neck.


Jay: Leech doesn't entirely buy the message behind that shake of the head, but he doesn't speak up, just staying curled around the boy securely. It flits through his mind, definitely not for the first time tonight, that both of them would probably not be going through this shit - that Timothy would be here of his own accord, comfortable if not happy - if not for the damned roommate of his. But the parasite manages not to dwell on it, pretty practiced at keeping Ness from his thoughts by now, and instead enjoys the closeness even if it is painful.

Glad to feel Timothy calming himself down, Leech nonetheless stays as he is, only lifting his head some during that relocation, waiting until it's over to rest his cheek against the top of the boy's head once more. The nuzzling at his neck makes his breath catch briefly, instinctively waiting for a kiss to follow it as one had so many times before, equally relieved and disappointed when it doesn't happen.


Jackie: As he reworks his positioning and finds comfort in that expanse of neck, Tim opens his mouth, nearly presses it to the skin in front of it out of sheer habit. But he stops himself before his lips make contact, only his warmth breath lingering on the other boy’s skin. This all is partially brought on by the wine swirling in Tim’s stomach and the comfort that comes along with being next to this boy again, but Tim fights against it and eventually pulls his head away, not trusting himself there any more. The hand that was holding the boy’s neck drops, tracing back down to the tattoo near Leech’s collarbone, and Tim blinks tiredly watching his own movements and silently wishing he could trace every line of link he knows is stretched along Leech’s form.


Jay: Thankfully, that hesitation and the breath against the skin isn't noticed, and Leech is able to put that out of his mind, too. He leans his own head back when Timothy's draws away, letting his hands slide away from their respective positions as well as he rolls onto his back, offering in explanation before he eels off the bed completely: "Gotta piss." Which he does, once in the bathroom, but he lingers there to splash cold water on his face to remove the redness around his eyes from the tears that never quite spilled. Carefully avoiding looking at his reflexion as well as avoiding thinking of anything at all, he rubs his temples for a moment and generally tries to collect himself more thoroughly. It might be a little obvious that he stretched the solitude, but not too badly, and he does seem more steady again when he returns to the bed.


Jackie: Tim rolls away from Leech’s form even as the boy moves to get off the bed, not about to question the legitimacy of Leech’s dismissal, although there are thoughts swimming around in his head. He doesn’t watch him walk away - he never really liked ever seeing it in the first place - so he just shifts on the bed and relocates more to the center of it, snagging a pillow that he can clutch to his chest and wrap around, trying to force himself to fall asleep and be asleep when Leech returns. He’s not successful, but he looks like he’s at least trying, and he tiredly opens up his eyes to blink over at the boy as he gets back to the bed.


Jay: Leech pauses for a moment on the edge of the bed to light another cigarette, but when he lays back and finds Timothy farther away than he was, he promptly slides more towards the center of the bed, as well. He may pretend to himself that it's for Timothy's comfort, this closeness, but at the moment it's absolutely necessary for him, as well. Rolling onto his side, he ignores that pillow and reaches out with his free hand to curl the fingers around Timothy's right side, tugging a bit to attempt to draw him even closer, completely unaware that the area might be sensitive due to the boy's recent penchant for self-abuse - probably imagining that the cuts he made have healed over completely by now, leaving not even a scar. He's nearly as cautious in avoiding Timothy's gaze as he was his own in the mirror, his head tilted up to allow for smoking without burning the pillows, but his eyes cast so far down that they're practically closed.


Jackie: Watching Leech get closer to him on the bed, the slight tension that developed when he ducked out so swiftly releasing somewhat. He releases the pillow to accommodate Leech’s maneuvering, but he can’t stop the quiet hiss that comes from his abused side getting gripped on and pulled closer. Instead of pushing the pillow aside, Tim just moves over it, and he reaches an arm out to put over the parasite’s rib cage softly, as comfortably as possible given the situation. Yawning, Tim blinks another lazy blink as he glances up at Leech’s face, and when the boy puts his cigarette to his mouth and inhales, Tim’s hand raises and snags his wrist, pulling it down and directing the filter to his own mouth.


Jay: The hissing makes Leech instantly suspicious, and he flicks his gaze up to Timothy's face briefly, even starts to pluck at his shirt as if to draw it up before he eventually realizes it's a bad idea. For one, it isn't really his privilege anymore, and for another, if Timothy's been cutting there, maybe it cover up the mark that Leech left, he would rather not see it. So he flattens the shirt back down and drapes his hand farther down the boy's back, glad to draw him in without question. The improvised smoking method actually gains a tiny, tiny smile from Leech, one corner of his mouth just barely twitching up. He allows the a few drags before directing the cigarette to his own mouth again, and then back to Timothy's, switching off until the thing has to be put out. The quiet between them feels more comfortable than it has most of the night, but Leech leaves the music on regardless, and once the cigarette is out he wraps himself securely around the boy's skinny form, directing his head back to a shoulder.


Jackie: Should Leech have lifted that shirt up and exposed to skin there, he’d see a few other cuts to the skin higher up, closer to the boy’s ribs, and the bruised skin in and around the ‘L’ etched there, from nights spent pawing at the marking, either in longing or resentment. Tim doesn’t catch on to the parasite’s intentions, too focused on directing that cigarette to his mouth without burning himself. It’s a little sad that Tim had to engage like this, since all time prior Leech would always feed him a smoke, but it’s again something that the boy will have to get used to, and pretend to ignore for now.

With his head getting redirected to a shoulder, Tim shifts a little closer, the hand that was holding a wrist sliding into Leech’s palm and reworking it’s way back in to lace their fingers. He managed to get a heavy rest earlier, with their hands clasped like this, so hopes that maybe they can rest together again - with this time, Leech actually getting some semblance of sleep.


Jay: Leech probably would have fed Timothy the cigarette that way without being prompted, if he hadn't been so set on trying to keep their affection, such as it is, as platonic as possible; the brush of Timothy's lips against his fingers, even if accidental, probably would have felt like too much. He lets his fingers slot between the others easily, squeezing that hand in some sort of reassurance, like he knows why Timothy's doing it and what he hopes to accomplish. Once they're both comfortable beneath the blankets and around each other, Leech turns his head to the side for a moment to nuzzle against the boy's scalp and murmur against it, the soft tone of his voice making up for the somewhat impersonal saying. "G'night, Timothy."


Jackie: A little relieved when Leech applies the same amount of pressure to his hand, Tim tugs their clasped hands towards his own chest, in between their forms. Like that, Tim fixes his head back down, nuzzling into one of Leech’s shoulders and finding a comfortable spot to res tin, since he has no desire whatsoever to move from this fixture until Leech removes himself, or someone else forces Timothy away. The nuzzling to his scalp sends a shiver down his spine, a fairly neutral affection that usually precludes some mouthing on his neck, but that never comes. Instead, those words do, and Timothy curls in even closer, mumbling out against Leech’s form: “Night, Leech.”

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